Barcelona faced off against Rubin Kazan in Champions League Group D action earlier today. Barca had already secured first place in the group with 10 points, FC Copenhagen had seven, Rubin Kazan had six, and Panathinaikos had two entering the day's matches. Having already won the group, Barca Coach Pep Guardiola was able to experiment with his lineup and give most of the first team a day of rest while exposing some of his younger players to Champions League action.
Barca started off in a 3-4-3 with Pinto in goal and a back three that consisted of Pique, Busquets, and Fontas. The midfield consisted of Jonathan, Mascherano, Maxwell, and Alcantara. Up front it was Jeffren, Bojan, and Adriano. Rubin Kazan know they need all three points to have a chance of reaching the knockout stages so Pep wisely included Mascherano, Busquets, and Pique to make sure the youngsters have plenty of defensive help.
Barca had plenty of possession early on but no chances that threatened the goal. In the 13th minute Jeffren picked up a leg injury and had to be substituted out for Victor Vazquez. Very disappointing for Jeffren, fresh off his goal versus Real Madrid last week. The first 15 minutes show Kazan and Barca's second team (save Busquets and Pique) to be pretty evenly matched.
Around the half-hour mark Bojan took a knock to the side of the head and left the pitch, seemingly bleeding from either the mouth or nose. Marc Bartra entered the match for the injured Bojan as Barca continued to lose attacking options up front. The rest of the first half was pretty dull and each team finished the half with a meager one shot on goal. It was a very disappointing half for both teams as Kazan desperately need a goal to have a chance of advancing and Barca have lost Jeffren and Bojan to injuries, both of them missing out on a great chance to get some experience in the Champions League.
In the 51st minute it was Bartra with a great run, beating his man down the right side and winning a corner kick. The short corner that followed found Thiago with the ball and, after his initial shot came right back at him, he slid a smart pass to Fontas whose left footed shot struck a Kazan defender in the arm and found the back of the net. If the shot had not been a goal it would have been a stone-cold penalty for a hand-ball on Kazan's Vitaliy Kalashin.
After Barca took the 1-0 lead the game returned to it's slow and unexciting pace. In the 63rd minute Pep decided to make his final substitution, removing Jonathan for another youngster by the name of Lionel Messi. Call me crazy but of all the La Masia graduates on the field today I think this Messi kid has some real potential.
In the 63rd minute Kazan had their best chance of the day as Obafemi Martins sent Jerzy Rafal Murawski through but his chip shot was poor and easily saved by Pinto. Messi had a couple of vintage Messi's runs in the last 30 minutes but none found the goal. In the 86th minute Adriano sent Vazquez through and a fantastic finish from Vazquez made it 2-0 Barca. Vazquez was not only outside the box when he fired his shot, he was beyond the circle at the top of the box.
The final score was 2-0 and Pep Guardiola should be thrilled that a team made up of only two first team regulars defeated a Champions League opponent who had everything to play for. It wasn't the most exciting game to watch but, given how many starts were missing for Barca, that wasn't surprising.