Valverde hails Barca spirit

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde praised his side’s determination after their narrow 1-0 Champions League victory over Sporting CP.

It took an own goal from Sebastian Coates on 49 minutes to settle the tie as Barca struggled to break down their opponents.

And having survived some late pressure from their Portuguese hosts, Valverde admitted it wasn’t easy at the Estádio José Alvalade.

He said: “If you want to win big games you have to suffer. We played with real determination and dominated the first half.

“When we went 1-0 up Sporting gritted their teeth and caused us a little insecurity. But, come on, this is the Champions League and it is never easy.”

After seeing their quality first hand, Valverde added that he felt Sporting were good enough to emerge from a group also containing Juventus and Olympiacos.

“They are still one of our direct rivals and can get through,” he added.

“They play Juventus next and nothing has been decided in this section. They have players who play at a high level but what I like most about them is their group mentality. They also have a good coach.”

Sporting manager Jorge Jesus, meanwhile, is well aware of the ability of his side and felt they were well worth a win on Wednesday.

He said: “At the break I told my players we could beat Barcelona.

“I felt I knew what we had to do to win. We ended up losing to a freak own goal.

“Against the world’s second-best team, we performed spectacularly. We shut off all their main passing routes in the first half. In the second half we controlled the ball better.

“Having said that, it’s difficult to create big chances against Barcelona. I feel Sporting left a great image of an excellent team on the watching world.”