Barcelona were held to a scoreless draw in Greece by Olympiacos, resulting in Barcelona first non-win of the 2017-18 Champions League season. That the game remained scoreless wasn’t for lack of trying, but due to poor finishing in front of goal, with Luis Suarez missing numerous chances, while Lionel Messi missed his fair share as well.
In a fantastic atmosphere in Greece, Olympiacos gave a very warm welcome to Barcelona coach, and former Olympiacos manager, Ernesto Valverde. Valverde’s new team started the match very brightly, needing just a couple minutes to test Silvio Proto for the first time. The shot came from the right side from Nelson Semedo, but Proto made a strong save.
Barcelona continued with their dominance on the pitch, highlighted by some good, pinpoint passing, but Proto went untested. Olympiacos attempted to press high, but the Catalans had few problems penetrating deeper into Olympiacos territory. Getting shots off proved more difficult, as the hosts closed down space well in front of the penalty area. Luis Suarez though could’ve had an excellent chance to open the scoring early, however, the play was correctly whistled dead for offside.
Barcelona appeared to have taken the lead in the 18th minute. The ball was turned over in transition and Barcelona quickly went on the attack, with Messi brilliantly controlling the ball on the edge of the area. The Argentine quickly found Denis Suarez in a great spot from which the Spaniard found the back of the net, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.
Another excellent chance again wasn’t converted in the 20th minute. Denis Suarez found Messi in the middle of the area on a set play from a corner kick. Messi first-timed a shot on goal, but Proto somehow made the save even with Suarez running interference right in front of the Belgian goalkeeper. Moments later, Suarez was played through by a lovely ball from Denis, but from the left side Suarez missed the target.
Proto was again called into action in the 27th minute when Messi fired a shot from traffic, but again Proto made the save. Olympiacos showed some glimpses of life around the half-hour mark when Barcelona made a couple errors in possession, but a shot over the crossbar was all the hosts could’ve mustered.
Barcelona were quick to return to their attacking ways, but Olympiacos’ defense was up to the task with a couple blocked shots on Denis and Messi. Messi took an excellent 30-yard free kick, but that one too was saved by Proto. Barcelona continued to attack, but in the 37th minute Olympiacos launched a textbook counter attack, forcing Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make his first save of the match.
In the last stages of the first half Barcelona slowed down in attack which allowed Olympiacos more space on the pitch, something the Greek side tried to quickly exploit. While the hosts didn’t find the back of the net, Sergi Roberto became a casualty after stopping a counter attack. After picking up a yellow card for stopping the counter, Roberto was quick to sit down holding his hamstring. Roberto had to leave the pitch and was later replaced by Gerard Deulofeu.
Neither side made any substitutions during the break and as expected very little changed on the pitch. Barcelona continued to be the better side on the pitch, but Olympiacos’ plan of not conceding was alive and well. Throughout the game, Olympiacos showed very little intent for going forward, but around the one hour mark they managed to pin Barcelona back for several minutes, threatening a couple times from high crosses, but the game remained scoreless.
Valverde made his second substitution in the 62nd minute, with Ivan Rakitić replacing Paulinho. Just seconds after the substitution, Barcelona created a golden opportunity after a deep Olympiacos turnover. Messi and Suarez went on the attack and with Suarez unselfishly passing the ball to Messi, the Argentine was left with a seemingly easy finish, but under pressure from defenders, Messi missed the empty net.
A more confident Suarez probably would’ve taken the aforementioned chance on his own, but the Uruguayan’s struggles have been well documented. Still, the striker had two more chances in the 72nd minute, but the first one was blocked while the second, a bicycle kick, whistled over the crossbar. A couple minutes later Barcelona completed their final personnel change, with Andre Gomes taking Denis’ place.
Suarez managed to miss another chance in the 80th minute, this time after he was played behind the defense by a stunning long pass. Unwisely, Suarez let the ball bounce before taking the shot, giving him much less time and space than he had otherwise, as Suarez’s lob bounced out of play off the crossbar.
The remaining Barcelona attacks proved futile. Messi tried his luck from a free kick, but was denied by Proto, and the latter was again victorious in added time after Messi took a shot from the edge of the area. Barcelona will be kicking themselves from not wining this one as they had numerous chances to score the single goal that would’ve been enough to earn the three points. Regardless, Barcelona remain in command of Group D as Juventus were also held to a draw in Lisbon.