Resolute Rubin hold Barça
Rubin Kazan followed up their shock victory over Barcelona a fortnight ago by holding the reigning champions to a 0-0 draw in the UEFA Champions League this evening. The result left the Russians top of Group F, level on points with their visitors, ahead of the game between Dinamo Kiev and Inter Milan.
Barcelona were the victims of one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history when goals by Aleksandr Ryazantsev and Gokdeniz Karadeniz guided Rubin to a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou, and their first win in the competition.
Although the Spaniards dominated possession tonight, they produced few clear-cut chances against their impregnable hosts, who could even have taken all three points had Alexander Bukharov taken his chances after being introduced as a substitute with a little under half an hour remaining.
Barça started brightly and should have been ahead in the third minute. The visitors forced two corners before Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the home defence for dead and clipped the ball over the goalkeeper, who had gone to ground, only to see it hit the post and bounce out.
The Russians were working hard to close their visitors down and the bobbly pitch was preventing Barcelona from employing their usual slick passing game, with Lionel Messi unable to make any real contribution. However, the Catalan side were prepared to play a patient game and Xavi chipped just over.
Ibrahimovic then chested a lofted ball on to Messi, who bustled through but was denied by Sergei Ryzhikov smothering the ball at the Argentinian's feet. Then Seydou Keita failed to connect properly with a Daniel Alves cross as Barcelona dominated.
Messi sent a shot wide but a rigid, disciplined Russian defence meant Barcelona were unable to create clear-cut chances, and it was the hosts who almost took the lead five minutes before half-time. Rubin broke quickly with a ball out to the right and with Eric Abidal nowhere to be seen, Karadeniz found himself in acres of space. The striker made his way into the box and sent in a fierce shot, which Victor Valdes did well to save down at his near post.
Rubin then momentarily lost concentration when Ibrahimovic had a free-kick in a central position outside the area, but rather than blast the ball, the Sweden striker played it short to Andres Iniesta, whose effort was saved by Ryzhikov. Ibrahimovic produced a snap-shot which was hit straight at the keeper and the half ended goalless.
The second period opened in the same fashion, the Russians closing down and stifling their opponents. Yaya Toure sent in a fierce 25-yard shot which the keeper palmed down without anyone following up, and Iniesta put a shot wide after wriggling through, although Ryzhikov had it covered.
Alejandro Dominguez wasted a free-kick when he was in a promising position on the left by floating the ball on to the roof of the net. However, Rubin had a great chance in the 74th minute, when Dominguez sent a ball over the defence to Bukharov, who was half a yard ahead but chose to chest the ball down rather than head it or shoot, giving Valdes the chance to come out and smother.
Valdes then dived at Bukharov's feet as the Russia international ran in on goal, and Carles Puyol cleared the danger with the goalkeeper out of his area as Rubin caused confusion in the visitors' defence. Bukharov then went narrowly over from Dominguez's corner, before substitute Thierry Henry had no time to react when he appeared to be be taken by surprise as the ball came to him yards from goal. The former Arsenal striker then blazed yards wide in the final minute.