Inter frustrate holders
Barcelona began the defence of their Champions League crown by being held to a 0-0 draw at Inter.
By Richard Bailey
Last Updated: 16/09/09 10:18pm
Barcelona began the defence of their UEFA Champions League crown by being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw against Inter Milan at the San Siro.
Inter will be more pleased with the point after they repelled everything Barca threw at them in a game where they were mainly camped inside their own penalty area.
The Catalans began the game on the front foot as Lionel Messi twice tested Nerazzurri goalkeeper Julio Cesar inside the opening 10 minutes while Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have done better when he went through on goal on seven minutes.
In fact both Ibrahimovic and Inter's Samuel Eto'o, who were both playing against their former employers after their multi-million pound swap deal in the summer, were both found wanting in a game of few chances.
Jose Mourinho's men came out of their shells slightly in the second half as both Wesley Sneijder and substitute Dejan Stankovic went close but the match soon reverted to type as Barca controlled the game but failed to find the goal they perhaps deserved.
It was Barcelona who began brightest when Messi fired the home side a warning inside the first minute when he found space deep in the Inter half. The Argentine skipped inside Walter Samuel before forcing Julio Cesar into a save down to his left.
Barca should have opened the scoring six minutes later when Yaya Toure chipped a through ball onto the chest of Ibrahimovic but the striker could only volley his effort well wide when bearing down on goal.
Ignored the warnings
Inter failed to heed the previous two warnings as Messi again found space in the area on eight minutes. The Italians looked askew at the back as Dani Alves, always on hand to support the attack, crossed from the right but Messi saw his header comfortably saved by Cesar.
Finally Mourinho's men awoke from their slumber as the lively Diego Milito found a yard on the left-hand side of the area. The former Genoa striker turned inside Carles Puyol before seeing his well-struck shot saved by Victor Valdes.
However the Spanish champions soon regained their supremacy without really finding top gear but still managed to cut through the Inter defence at will.
Xavi, seemingly with nowhere to go on the edge of the Inter area, clipped a ball over the top for Alves. The full-back drew Cesar from his line before cutting the ball back to Seydou Keita but the midfielder dragged his shot wide with the goal gaping as the first half drew to a close.
The home crowd were beginning to grow restless as their heroes wasted possession on a regular basis and Messi nearly made them pay on 45 minutes when he again cut in from the right before stinging the hands of Cesar in the Inter goal.
Inter came out of the blocks quickest in the second half and attacked through the surprisingly quiet Sneijder. The Dutchman had the option of Sulley Muntari to his left but decided to go alone and his long distance left-footed strike flashed inches wide of Valdes' far post.
The Serie A champions failed to build on the early chance and Barca soon began to control the game once more without, it has to be said, the influential Andres Iniesta as Guardiola insists on easing him back to full fitness.
However for all their possession the Catalans couldn't muster a clear-cut chance and it was Inter who nearly took the lead on 65 minutes when, after Milito had held up the play on the edge of the Barca area, substitute Stankovic fired just over.
Barca responded and after a number of neat passes on the edge of the area the productive Xavi picked out Thierry Henry at the back post from the right. The Frenchman fired across the face of the goal but Alves shot over the bar when sliding in from five yards.
Mourinho was growing more animated on the sidelines but appeared to be happy with a point when he brought on young defender Davide Santon for Sneijder with ten minutes to go.
Inter were battling for a share of the spoils and Messi had the marks to prove it as Christian Chivu raked his boot down the forward's shin before voicing his innocence to referee Wolfgang Stark.
That was to be the end of the action and despite their dominant possession Barca were ultimately frustrated by a much improved Inter defence in the second period as both sides went home with a point.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|4||Shots off Target||9|