Barcelona opened their title-defending UEFA Champions League campaign with an uninspired performance and a difficult 1-1 draw against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico, with goals from Luis Suárez and Alessandro Florenzi. In a game full of counter-attacks from the hosts and very few creativity from the Catalan giants, the game ended with a fair result, and Barça's tough form in Italy continues: now the Treble winners have only won two of their last 15 matches in Italian soil.
This football thing is really crazy. Wild stuff just happens out of nowhere.
It was a lively, exciting first half, with all the ingredients necessary to make a great UCL game: spectacular atmosphere - what a crowd! -, two teams wanting to score, and talent being displayed. Barça showed their passing talent, patiently building plays up and creating dangerous chances through Lionel Messi, who played as a midfielder for most of the initial 45 minutes. Barça's good start got them a goal, when a Jérémy Mathieu lob found Rakitic, who had his cross deflected but still hit the target: a wide open Luis Suárez on the far post, and the Uruguayan scored with ease.
With an edge on the scoreline, the Blaugrana really started dominating, pinning the Giallorossi very close to their box and allowing few counter-attacks. Everything looked fine, until Roma full-back Alessandro Florenzi found a shot from the midfield line absolutely out of nowhere. His 50-meter ball went over Barça keeper Marc-André ter Stegen, kissed the post and went to the back of the net. The crowd went bonkers, and the hosts equalized the game in the most spectacular way imaginable.
After the goal, everyone was stunned, including the Catalans, who couldn't do anything until the final whistle of the half. It was time to go to the locker room and figure out how to wake up from that wild goal.
Barça were clearly better. As soon as the second half started, Messi and Suárez had two great chances in just a couple of minutes, but were stopped by keeper Szczesny, who was forced to be replaced by De Sanctis after injuring his hand. After a poor 60 minutes, Ivan Rakitic came off for Rafinha Alcântara, but the Brazlian got injured in his first play of the match after a very hard challenge by Radja Nainggolan, and had to be substituted by Javier Mascherano.
Forced to make a slight tactical tweak with the Argentine's entrace into the game, Barça lost a midfield on offense, and the responsibility to come up with magic to make something happen fell on the shoulders of the 'MSN' trio. Roma was very compact on defense and very happy to simply hold on to the draw and counter-attack if any opportunities came along. A few of them did, so the hosts simply defended for most of the final minutes.
The Blaugranes showed very little creativity at the end of the match, with the only chance coming with Jordi Alba in the last minute, and after a wild game, it ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw for the Catalan giants.
Roma: Szczesny (De Sanctis); Florenzi (Torosidis), Rüdiger, Manolas, Digné; De Rossi, Nainggolan, Keita; Salah, Dzeko, Falqué (Iturbe)
Goal: Florenzi (31')
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Rafinha (Mascherano)), Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Goal: Suárez (21')