UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 3-2 Spartak Moscow: Match Review

Pique left the field injured early on, and as yet, we do not know the extent of the injury

FC Barcelona came from behind to defeat a resilient Spartak Moscow at the Camp Nou in the opening game of their 2012-13 UEFA Champions League campaign. The Blaugrana took the lead through Cristian Tello on 14 minutes, but thanks to an own-goal from Dani Alves, they went in level at the break. Spartak took the lead courtesy of Romulo’s goal on the counter-attack, although after Tito made a couple of adjustments, Barcelona fought back with two goals from Lionel Messi securing the three points for the Catalans.

Barcelona

Spartak Moscow

Possession

72%

28%

Total Shots

18

6

Shots on Target

6

2

Pass Accuracy

94%

79%

Fouls

4

16

Offsides

5

1

Yellow Cards

1

5

Red Cards

0

0

Tito Vilanova made three changes from the weekend’s win over Getafe, bringing in Dani Alves, Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, meaning that Martin Montoya and Thiago Alcântara dropped to the bench while Carles Puyol obviously dropped out of the squad altogether. Not only that, but Alexis Sanchez returned to the bench after sitting out Saturday’s win through injury.

The match started slowly, with both sides venturing forward in the early exchanges. Spartak may have had less possession, but with Emenike making his presence known in attack, they displayed that they weren’t here to make up the numbers. Barcelona on the other hand were looking bright; Gerard Piqué went close with a first-time effort after an intelligent corner from Xavi, but Geri landed rather awkwardly and after lengthy treatment, Piqué rejoined play. However, his return was short-lived and Alex Song took his place in the heart of defense.

It was a tough blow for the Blaugrana, especially given Carles Puyol’s knee injury, but they rebounded in excellent style, taking the lead in the 14th minute courtesy of an excellent strike from Cristian Tello. The youngster has come in for a little criticism in recent weeks for wayward finishing and poor decision-making; neither of which were present in this goal. In fact, it was quite the opposite as Tello took the decision to cut inside rather than help the ball onto the overlapping run of Adriano, therefore opening up space for a shot – which he buried in the far bottom corner. It was a superb finish and one that gave Barcelona a little breathing room.

Approaching the 25 minute mark, the Blaugrana were dominating possession (68-32), although it wasn’t all plain sailing. Javier Mascherano went down after a strong challenge, but fortunately he got back to his feet and could continue. Barcelona were looking comfortable, but they needed that second goal to really calm the nerves – and they did score again, although unfortunately for Dani Alves, it was at the wrong end. It all started with a fantastic turn from Emmanuel Emenike and while the Nigerian didn’t get away from Adriano, Dani Alves was slow to react on the opposite flank. Emenike powered down the line and cut the ball back across the box; I think Barcelona should have dealt with the troubles.

It was a decent cross, but Alex Song really should have anticipated the direction of the pass and cut it out, while Dani Alves should have reacted better to Emenike’s initial turn as it probably would have put him in a better position to clear his lines. What actually happened though is that the cross went through Song’s legs and Dani Alves proceeded to scuff his clearance into the bottom corner. 29 minutes gone, and we were back level at the Camp Nou. For all their possession, the Catalans only mustered two shots on target in the opening half – the second of which was a fairly tame header from Cesc Fàbregas. They needed to improve, and fast.

The intent was there as Barcelona started the second half; Adriano fired a shot right at Dikan in the Spartak goal before Dani Alves had a goal correctly ruled out for offside. It was a fractional call, but one that the assistant got right. Then Lionel Messi had his first real chance of the night, turning to fire a half-volley right at Dikan after Alves’ raking cross-field pass. It was a magnificent save, and one that served as the starting point for a counter-attack. Forward came Ari, who played the ball to Aiden McGeady, and the Irishman helped it on to Romulo who had made a fantastic, surging run on the right. Taking on his compatriot Adriano, Romulo powered into the area and tucked the ball past Victor Valdés to hand Spartak a shock lead.

This prompted Tito Vilanova into action, with Alves making way for Alexis Sanchez who took up a central attacking position slightly ahead of Leo Messi. Immediately, Barcelona reaped the rewards. Tello was finding more space, Spartak were tiring and Barcelona were in the ascendency. It wasn’t long before they got their equaliser. Yet again, it was good work from Cristian Tello who took on McGeady to create space for a cut-back and in the right place at the right time was Lionel Messi – who else? – to grab a much-needed equaliser.

David Villa replaced Cristian Tello as Vilanova went all-out for the win. Would Villa get his third goal to save the day for the Blaugrana? He certainly got the chance as the ball broke to him in the area, but unfortunately for El Guaje, he was denied a goal with his first touch thanks to a superb sliding block from the Spartak defense. Villa also had a chance at the back-post, and although he missed with an acrobatic attempt, the ball fell to Alexis Sanchez who played the ball right back into the box for Lionel Messi to head Barcelona into the lead.

Alexis Sanchez was involved moments later, teeing up Pedro for a shot at goal, but the Spaniard dragged his effort wide. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t matter, although it would have been nice if Pedro found the scoresheet. A tough game – far more difficult than many of us expected, but a win nonetheless. Next up are Granada as Barcelona return to league action looking to temporarily extend their lead over Real Madrid to a staggering 11 points. Visca el Barca!

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