|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Barcelona held goalless by Benfica
March 29, 2006 09:56 IST
Favourites Barcelona let Benfica off lightly with some poor finishing in a Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday that was far more exciting than the 0-0 scoreline.
Midfielders Deco and striker Samuel Eto'o were guilty of bad misses after being set up by Ronaldinho while Benfica's Brazilian goalkeeper Marcelo Moretto saved well with his foot from Mark van Bommel in a one-sided first half.
Barcelona controlled the match although their keeper Victor Valdes also made decisive stops from lively substitute Fabrizio Miccoli and the home side's captain Simao Sabrosa in an evenly contested second period featuring Benfica counter-attacks.
"It was a shame we couldn't score, but the team worked hard and played quite well," Barca coach Frank Rijkaard told a Spanish TV station.
"In the next game we're sure to score. Normally a draw away from home is a good result."
Moretto also pushed a Henrik Larsson effort from the right onto the near post and made a fine diving save from Van Bommel in the final half hour.
The visitors, who also hit both Benfica posts in quick succession early in the second half, were lucky when, with less than 20 minutes to go, they did not have a penalty awarded against them for handball by defender Thiago Motta.
Benfica coach Ronald Koeman said the game featured two halves, the first with Barcelona dominating a nervous Benfica side and the second when the home team had chances to score.
"Beyond that, there was the penalty that we deserved. For me, it was a penalty, of course," Koeman said.
"The result of this game gives us a chance. Barcelona have to attack more, playing in front of their fans, but if we were to play like we did in the second half we have a chance.
"If we go in like we did in the first half, we'll have a lot of problems."
Motta said: "I think the team played well, but we just couldn't get a goal. But playing at home will give us an advantage in the second leg."
Ronaldinho's probing passes were a constant menace and when he put Eto'o away on the left for the Cameroon striker to cross low into the middle in the 18th minute, Deco side-footed the ball wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy.
Benfica, with striker Nuno Gomes suspended, were reduced to attempting shots from outside the penalty area in the first half with former Barca forward Geovanni coming closest in the 23rd when he shot just over the bar.
Just past the half hour, Moretto blocked well when Van Bommel raced through from the left into the middle past three defenders and shot with his left foot.
Two minutes before halftime, Eto'o latched onto a poor clearance from Ronaldinho's low ball into the box and had only Moretto to beat but the keeper blocked his weak shot from point-blank range.
Benfica came closest on the hour when Valdes saved Miccoli's shot from the left and defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst blocked Geovanni's follow-through with his body.
The teams meet again in the second leg at Barcelona's Nou Camp on April 5.
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage