17-year-old Nigerian striker George Ilenikhena became the hero for Royal Antwerp, scoring a stoppage-time winner in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Barcelona in their final UEFA Champions League game.
The win, however, proved bittersweet for the Belgians, as it wasn’t enough to rescue them from last place in the group and elimination from all European competitions.
A pulsating encounter at the Bosuilstadion saw Antwerp grab the lead through Arthur Vermeeren in the second minute. Barcelona, however, rallied in with Ferran Torres equalizing in the 35th minute before Vincent Janssen restored Antwerp’s advantage in the 56th minute. Just when it seemed Marc Guiu had snatched a point for Barcelona with a 91st-minute equalizer, Ilenikhena stepped up with the final word.
The youngster, in his first Champions League season, found himself in the right place at the right time in the 92nd minute, calmly slotting home the winner to send the Antwerp faithful into raptures.
The goal capped off a remarkable individual performance for Ilenikhena, who had only entered the fray moments earlier.
Despite the euphoric win, Antwerp’s European adventure ultimately came to an end. Having lost all their previous group matches, the victory over Barcelona wasn’t enough to leapfrog any of their rivals in the standings. Nevertheless, the Belgians can take heart from their spirited performance against one of European football’s giants.