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UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 0-0 SL Benfica: Match Review

Barcelona were fortunate to walk away from the Camp Nou with a point on Wednesday night, as Benfica squandered a number of decent chances to draw with their depleted hosts. The match was overshadowed though by Lionel Messi's injury

Jasper Juinen

Barcelona were fortunate to walk away from the Camp Nou with a point on Wednesday night, as Benfica squandered a number of decent chances to draw with their depleted hosts. Both Rodrigo and Lima were guilty of missing good opportunities during the match, while Barcelona created very little without the likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta on the field. While Lionel Messi did take the field in the second half, his night ended in disaster, as the Argentine had to be stretchered from the field of play with a knee injury. As at the time of publish, there is no word on the severity of the injury.






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Tito Vilanova made ten changes from the team that started against Athletic Bilbao, with Adriano the only survivor from Saturday’s 5-1 win. That meant a rare start in goal for Jose Manuel Pinto, and (season) debuts for the likes of Carles Planas and Rafinha, while Lionel Messi had to settle for a place on the bench with Gerd Muller’s record in sight. Would Benfica be able to claim the result they needed to qualify against a depleted Blaugrana line-up?

Benfica started brightly, and created a number of clear-cut chances in the first-half as Barcelona struggled to really gain a foothold in the game without the likes of Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta or Xavi Hernández in midfield. Sure, they were edging the possession statistics, but Barca were creating very little – with Rafinha’s volley the only "chance" of note from the first half – while Benfica squandered chance after chance to take the lead.

Rodrigo arguably had the best chance of the first-half with a one-on-one against Pinto, but the Spaniard embarrassingly put his shot wide of the post despite Ola John’s supporting run. Lima went close with a diving header, and went closer still with a chance towards the end of the half after a nice pass from Nolito sent the Brazilian through on goal. Evading Adriano’s attempted last-ditch challenge, Lima opened up his body and tried to side-foot the ball past Pinto, but the veteran shot-stopper was up to the task and tipped Lima’s shot onto the post for Carles Planas to clear.

Ola John also forced a good save with a shot from the edge of the area – and by the time the referee brought the first half to a close, we were left wondering just how on earth Benfica were not ahead at the Camp Nou. Maybe the second half would be better?

Not a chance. Nolito could have broken the deadlock just minutes after the restart after a nice cross from Lima, but the former Barcelona starlet couldn’t get his shot on target. With an hour gone, Tito Vilanova opted to make a couple of changes, as Lionel Messi was brought on for Rafinha, while Gerard Piqué took Adriano’s place in the heart of defense. Gerard Deulofeu also made a cameo appearance, replacing Cristian Tello, but the headline of the second half was the injury suffered by Messi during a collision with Benfica keeper, Artur Moraes. Messi was trying to get on the score-sheet – as per usual, but in doing so he tried to take on the Brazilian and appeared to hurt his knee. After lengthy treatment, Messi was stretchered off the field of play which meant that Barcelona had to finish the match with ten men – although did that really matter? Everyone’s mind was on Messi and news on the severity of his injury.

Gerard Deulofeu tried his best to steal the spotlight with a nice run, but unfortunately the talented winger couldn’t test the keeper with his shot. Similarly, Benfica had a chance to win it at the other end with virtually the last kick of the game, but Pereira’s dismal effort ensured that the game finished goalless. That means that Barcelona finish atop Group G with 13 points while Benfica had to settle for an spot in the Europa League after Celtic secured the final knock-out berth with a late winner against Spartak Moscow. Next up, Barcelona travel to Seville to take on Real Betis, while the UEFA Champions League will return in February. Visca el Barca!

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