With Barcelona in the Champions League 2022, Robert Lewandowski quickly made his mark. Lewandowski became the first player to score a hat trick with three clubs in the Champions League after the team’s opening 5-1 rout of Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Poland striker has now scored seven hat tricks in the Champions League; the other two came against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The most significant signing of the year for Barcelona kept up his strong start to the campaign, scoring another goal to bring his total to eight through five games.
With 89 goals, Lewandowski has moved into third place all-time in the history of the UEFA Champions League, behind only Lionel Messi (141) and Cristiano Ronaldo (141). (125).
Karim Benzema of Real Madrid, who has 86 goals, was passed by the Poland striker in 4th position.
“I knew from the beginning here it was going to be important to adapt right from the first game,” Lewandowski said. “People ask about the goals, but it’s important to be in the right position, to help my team because my teammates have helped me a lot on and off the pitch.”
Lewandowski said the goals were a gift to his wife at Camp Nou celebrating her birthday. “The fact that she was in the stadium on her birthday means a lot,” he said. “Something amazing for me.”
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said he was running out of words to praise his new striker. “Robert is relentless,” Hernández said. “He is humble and is always working hard. I don’t have enough compliments for him. He scored three goals today, but it wasn’t only that. It’s about how he helps the team, about his presence. What a fantastic signing.”
Ferran Torres and Frank Kessié, two other Barcelona recruits, also scored goals for the hosts in the Group C match at Camp Nou. In the other group game, Bayern, Lewandowski’s old team, defeated Inter Milan 2-0.
Plzen’s 34-game streak of unbeaten competitive games came to an end with Barcelona’s victory. This season, the Czech Republic club had won 10 of its first 12 games. It had 29 victories and 5 draws going into the encounter on Wednesday.
Barcelona, despite recent financial difficulties, made significant expenditures to upgrade their team. Last season, it’s first without Argentina great Lionel Messi, it placed second behind Real Madrid in the Spanish league and was eliminated from the Champions League in the group round. The new signings have clicked early on and Barcelona has outscored opponents 16-2 to start the season.
Kessié, who was playing in his first Champions League match, scored the game’s first goal for the Catalan club with a header off a corner kick. With another header inside the area, Jules Koundé—another offseason addition to Barcelona—redirected the ball toward Kessié.
Lewandowski increased the margin of victory in the 34th minute with a skillfully placed shot from inside the area into the far corner. He scored two more goals—a low drive from outside the box in the 67th minute and a header in stoppage time of the first-half coming off nice crosses from Ousmane Dembélé. Lewandowski had already scored five goals in four Spanish league matches this season since being signed from Bayern for close to $50 million.
“Lewandowski showed his class tonight,” Plzen coach Michal Bilek said. “His finishing is phenomenal and he perfectly chooses the right position in the box. He is rightly considered one of the best forwards in the world.”
After a defensive lapse by the Barcelona defense, Plzen had pulled one closer with a header by Jan Sykora in the 44th minute. In the 71st minute, Torres scored the fifth goal for the home team with a skilled close-range volley.
A penalty kick called in favor of Plzen in the 23rd was reversed after a video review showed a foul by the attacker in the buildup. “We expected such a hard match,” Bilek said. “The boys did what they could, but it was not enough. Barcelona showed tremendous quality in all aspects of the game.”
Despite Hernández rotating his lineup and making six changes to the team that thrashed Sevilla 3-0 in the Spanish league over the weekend, including the additions of Kessié and Ansu Fati, veteran captain Sergio Busquets, and freshly signed Raphinha, Barcelona still won easily.
In the 81st minute, Pablo Torre took Kessié’s place and made his first team appearance. Plzen had not played in the Champions League since last year. It had as many wins in its most recent two competition games as it had in its previous 16 games. In their previous meeting in the Champions League group stage in 2011–12, Barcelona defeated Plzen 2-0.