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Summary

  1. Second-placed Barcelona move four points clear of Ajax
  2. Barca one behind Group F leaders PSG, who beat Apoel
  3. Teams at the halfway point of the group stage

Live Reporting

By Jonathan Jurejko

All times stated are UK

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Match report

Neymar
AP

Barcelona warmed up for Saturday's El Clasico against Real Madrid with a comfortable Champions League win against Dutch title holders Ajax.

In-form Neymar scored his seventh goal in his last five Barca appearances to put the Spanish leaders ahead, before Lionel Messi converted Andres Iniesta's accurate pass to double the tally.

With this weekend's trip to the Bernabeu in mind, Luis Enrique withdrew Neymar, Messi and Iniesta in the second half as Barca began to relax.

That allowed Ajax to nick a late consolation through teenage forward Anwar El Ghazi, before Barca's own young substitute Sandro Ramirez, who replaced Neymar, killed off any hope of a dramatic Dutch comeback.

Messi's strike put him within two of Spanish striker Raul, who is the Champions League's all-time leading scorer with 71 goals.

But the Argentina captain missed several other chances to move even closer to the Real Madrid legend as Barcelona dominated a poor Ajax side.

The Dutch champions offered little threat against the Catalans who are top of the Spanish league after eight matches under new boss Enrique.

Messi and Neymar posed danger throughout as Ajax, who had taken two points from their opening two Group F matches, were pinned back in their own half.

It was an unhappy return for Ajax coach Frank de Boer, who played alongside Enrique at the Nou Camp between 1999 and 2003.

His side are now four points adrift of second-placed Barcelona, who bounced back from their 3-2 defeat at Paris St-Germain.

The French champions lead the group at the halfway stage after netting a late 1-0 win at Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia.

Barcelona 3-1 Ajax
BBC
Barcelona 3-1 Ajax
BBC

FULL-TIME

Barcelona 3-1 Ajax

And that's virtually the final kick of the match as Barcelona warm up for Saturday's El Clasico in style.

GOAL

Barcelona 3-1 Ajax - Sandro Ramirez

Sandro Ramirez
Reuters

Game, set and match. Teenage substitute Sandro Ramirez relieves the pressure with a cool, calm and collected finish.

Barcelona 2-1 Ajax

Not deterred by his previous doomed attempt (see 85 mins), Dani Alves hovers over another free-kick in a dangerous position. Over the bar. Again.

Barcelona 2-1 Ajax

Anwar El Ghazi has the bit between his teeth now. He barges Marc Bartra out of the way and almost sees tomorrow's headlines as he catches a glimpse of the home goal. But Bartra recovers enough to make him slice wide.

A rather generous four minutes of stoppage time for Barca to hang on/Ajax to grab an equaliser.*

* Delete as appropriate in four minutes' time.

GOAL

Barcelona 2-1 Ajax - Anwar El Ghazi

Barcelona 3-1 Ajax
AP

No change from the free-kick, but seconds later the Dutch champions do manage to halve the deficit. Teenage forward Anwar El Ghazi bundles in from close range after some comedy Barca defending. Ajax can't - can they? Two minutes and stoppage time to find a leveller...

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Any chance of an Ajax consolation? They have a free-kick close to the left byline....

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Dani Alves
AP

Without the aforementioned Barca triumvirate, their remaining team-mates are left scrapping it out for the right to take control of a 25-yard free-kick. In the end it is Dani Alves who pulls rank, only to balloon his effort over the Ajax bar.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

If seeing Neymar, Messi and Iniesta was supposed to boost Ajax morale, then it isn't showing. Munir is giving the Dutch defence another headache, first seeing a shot blocked then teeing up Rafinha who fires over.

YELLOW CARD

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Moments after flashing a low cross-shot down Ajax's corridor of uncertainty, Pedro is back in action at the other end of the field. And he shows why he is better suited in attacking situations, clumsily hacking down Lucas Andersen to pick up Barca's first yellow card.

SUBSTITUTION

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Andres Iniesta
EPA

Another Barca substitution, another star man is withdrawn. Skipper Andres Iniesta trudges over to the dugout, with young midfielder Rafinha eagerly racing on to take his place.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Pique stands with his arms outstretched on the touchline, pleading with William Collum to be allowed back on. But the Scottish referee won't let him return until giving him the once over himself. In the meantime, Ajax almost have a sniff of the Barca goal. But Davy Klaassen miscues when well placed, skying high into the warm Catalan night.

OUCH!

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Gerard Pique is left eating grass after getting a whack around the head in an aerial challenge. He gets to his feet quickly - after all he will not want to lose his place ahead of El Clasico - but is taken to the touchline for some treatment. A good splash of the magic sponge does the trick before gingerly clambers to his feet.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Ajax are looking far more comfortable since the departure of Barca's Batman and Robin (Messi and Neymar). The Spanish leaders have not created much in the last few minutes - until, right on cue, Ivan Rakitic lets fly from distance. That stings the palms of Ajax keeper Jasper Cillissen, but no further damage is done.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Of course Messi jumping into the Barca bath early doors means he won't overhaul Raul as Champions League all-time scorer tonight. That record will surely tumble - along with all the rest - later this season.

SUBSTITUTION

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

"Come in number 10 - your time is done." For tonight at least, Lionel Messi's work is over. The Argentina captain is withdrawn, again with Saturday's trip to the Bernabeu at the forefront of Luis Enrique's thoughts. Teenage forward Munir, a Moroccan-born Spain international who has burst on to the scene this season, replaces him.

Stat attack

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Neymar has scored seven goals in his last five games for Barcelona - his best run scoring for the Spanish leaders.

SUBSTITUTION

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Time for Neymar to put his feet up. With Saturday's El Clasico in mind, Barca boss Luis Enrique decides to give the Brazil skipper a breather. On comes Sandro Ramirez - a like for like swap - who is yet another talented teenager to emerge from La Masia...

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Lionel Messi
EPA

Barcelona are pounding on the Ajax door harder than an angry bailiff wanting money. Messi misses another chance to close in on all-time Champions League scorer Raul, firing over the Ajax bar. Remember, the Real Madrid legend is two goals ahead of the Barca hero.

Stat attack

Opta Johan: Only Cristiano Ronaldo (7) has scored more Champions League goals against Ajax than Lionel Messi (4, with Roy Makaay and Jose Callejon).

SUBSTITUTION

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Ajax boss Frank de Boer hands over another substitution form to the fourth official in an attempt to salvage the game. Jairo Riedewald - the youngest-ever scorer in the Eredivisie - trots on for Niki Zimling.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

The cameras inside the Nou Camp have just homed in on ex-Barca captain Carles Puyol. He's yawning. An Ajax goal would liven things up and the Dutch champions do force a rare opener. But the chances falls to right-back Ricardo van Rhijn, who slices horribly wide.

CLOSE!

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Lionel Messi
AP

If Ajax manage to stop Messi scoring another I'll eat my hat. The Barca magician dances through the Ajax defence, showing quicker feet than John Travolta in Grease as he pounces on a loose ball, and then the net bulges. The side-netting. Close but not close enough.

DISALLOWED GOAL

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Now Lionel Messi has the ball in the onion bag. The Argentina captain sticks out a toe to divert Pedro's shot past Jasper Cillessen but he doesn't celebrate. He knows he is offside and turns to see the linesman's flag wafting in the Catalonia air.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

But Milik barely has time to tuck his shirt into his shorts before seeing Barca almost grab a third. That man Messi dribbles into the danger zone but wildly fires over.

KICK-OFF

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Frank de Boer had to do something at the break, and he has in the shape of a substitution. Teenager Ricardo Kishna is hooked and replaced by Poland international Arkadiusz Milik - who you may recall scored in their surprise 2-0 victory over Germany.

HALF-TIME

Group F as it stands

And that means that the Group F table currently looks like this....

Group F
BBC

HALF-TIME

Apoel Nicosia 0-0 Paris St-Germain

Goals are flying in across Europe tonight - except in Cyprus. That's where Barcelona and Ajax's Group F rivals Apoel Nicosia and Paris St-Germain are doing battle. Goalless over there.

Stat attack

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Ajax boss Frank de Boer was playing - and his brother Ronald scored - when the Dutch side last won on Spanish soil. That was a 3-2 extra-time win at Atletico Madrid in the 1996-97 Champions League quarter-finals.

HALF-TIME

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Ajax coach Frak de Boer
EPA

Before kick-off, Ajax boss - and ex-Barcelona defender - Frank de Boer was blowing kisses to the Nou Camp crowd which used to adore him. But after that first-half display by his players, he will be blowing raspberries now...

HALF-TIME

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Barcelona v Ajax
AP

Now a bead of perspiration dribbles off the brow of Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson shoots speculatively from distance and Ter Stegen is almost left wrongfooted by a huge deflection off Marc Bartra.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Moments after Ajax had the audacity to go into the Barca half (se 36 mins), the Dutch champions have upped the ante further - by having a shot. But it is a poor one. Niki Zimling's slashing a tame effort wide. Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has not broken sweat yet.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Andres Iniesta runs with the ball
AP

I've just drooled over my keyboard at the brilliance of Andres Iniesta. The Barca captain slaloms through the Ajax defence with the poise and balance of an Olympic skier, leaving him staring into the whites of Ajax keeper Jasper Cillessen's eyes. Iniesta clips towards the far corner, but the Dutch keeper stands tall to superbly deflect out for a corner.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Hurrah! Ajax move the ball into the Barcelona half. Teenager Ricardo Kishna is going nowhere down the left flank - until, that is, Gerard Pique sloppily allows him to wriggle clear as he tries to shepherd the ball out. But Pique recovers as a heavy touch from Kishna runs through to keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

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#bbceurofooty

John McEnerney: Barcelona looking more and more dangerous with every attack another before half-time and it's goodnight Ajax! Superior all over the park.

YELLOW CARD

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Joel Veltman is the first Ajax defender to lose his cool. He slides straight through the back of Neymar to earn the dubious honour of being the first name to go into referee William Collum's notebook.

Text us on 81111

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Tom: You expect football hipsters to only recognise three Ajax players (see 19:43)? I must be obsessed by this game! Schone is the danger man in this team.

HITS THE WOODWORK

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Almost three! Pedro pulls back his left peg like a catapult before slamming the ball against the foot of Ajax's right post. The Dutch side will already be asking the referee how long to go until the half-time oranges.

Barcelona 2-0 Ajax

Lionel Messi is feeling the groove now. He nutmegs Davy Klaassen on the touchline, leaving his hapless Ajax opponent only able to dump him on to the turf.

That goal puts him two behind Raul now as the all-time Champions League top scorer. Only a fool would bet against him reaching that tonight. I'm certainly not.