Inter 0-0 Barcelona: Wasteful Barca Let Nerazzurri Off The Hook

barca inter

All square in the big game of the night.

Inter and Barcelona played out a highly entertaining 0-0 draw in their Champions League Group F opener at San Siro, but the holders will perhaps regret their profligacy in front of goal. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita were all guilty of glaring misses for the Spaniards, while Wesley Sneijder went closest for the home side.

In undoubtedly the biggest game of the competition so far, all eyes were on the fashion capital as the respective coaches Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola locked horns.

Mourinho had caused a stir on Tuesday by naming his entire team at the pre-match press conference, and it was this XI who took to the field with Sulley Muntari being preferred to Dejan Stankovic in midfield, and Wesley Sneijder sitting behind frontmen Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o.

The main rivalry going into the game was, of course, between Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who had sensationally swapped clubs in the summer in a mega exchange. ‘Ibra’ led the line for the Blaugrana, with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry flanking him on either side. Andres Iniesta wasn’t yet ready to start after his long lay-off.

Barca started like the champions they are, and could have scored three times within the first eight minutes. First of all Messi dribbled past three players before forcing a low save out of Julio Cesar.

Then, Ibrahimovic was released clean through by Xavi but volleyed wastefully wide. Finally Lucio closed down Ibrahimovic as he bore down on goal, and Julio Cesar made another smart stop from Messi’s follow-up header.

It took until the 11th minute for Inter to register an effort, as Maicon blasted over from 25 yards.

Barcelona looked dangerous every time they came forward, and Messi found himself one-on-one with final man Cristian Chivu, but the Romanian executed a crucial sliding tackle.

Inter started to work their way more into the game, though, and on 28 minutes Milito did superbly to wriggle his way past Gerard Pique and force a save out of Victor Valdes. Sneijder then lashed over from the edge of the area.

Milito had been Inter’s best player in the first half, and he skinned Carles Puyol but the angle was too tight to trouble Valdes. Down the other end Henry shot high and wide.

On 40 minutes, Barcelona missed a glorious chance to take the lead. A chipped ball over the top found Dani Alves with just Julio Cesar to beat from eight yards. The Brazilian cut back to Seydou Keita, but with the goal at his mercy he scuffed his finish wide.

Barca were finishing the half dominantly and after Muntari lost his umpteenth ball of the half, Julio Cesar tipped over a 25-yard piledriver from Messi.

There was an explosive start to the second half. Ibrahimovic was put clean through by Xavi, but was flagged incorrectly offside. Then, seconds later, Sneijder was centimetres from giving Inter the lead with a low shot from outside the area.

Ibrahimovic was being particularly wasteful, and squandered another superb opportunity as he flicked the ball over at the back post from another inspired Xavi pass.

Henry roared past Lucio down the left, but Chivu made his second vital challenge of the match to stop a certain Messi tap-in.

Barcelona continued to dominate, and Messi just couldn’t grow enough when completely alone at the far post. Keita then wasted another fine chance as he shot over from the edge of the box.

Just past the hour mark, Inter made the first change of the game as Stankovic replaced Muntari. The Serb almost made an immediate impact as he crashed the ball a yard over from 25 yards.

Chivu made another goal-saving block from Messi, while on 71 minutes the little Argentine missed an absolute sitter as he somehow skied over an open goal from Henry’s miss-hit effort.

There was then real controversy after Stankovic appeared to deliberately handle the ball in the penalty area, but the referee waved play on, with Guardiola going furious on the touchline.

Barca threw on Iniesta for the last 13 minutes, but there was little to report in the closing stages. Both sides settled for a share of the spoils in a highly entertaining game.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 17, 2009.

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