La Liga

Barca held to a draw by Inter

It was honours even at San Siro as Barcelona were held to a goalless draw by Inter Milan in a match the European champions dominated but failed to crown with a goal their performance deserved.

The Spanish outfit created numerous chances to break the deadlock, particularly in the first half, the best of which fell to Zlatan Ibrahimović, who was unable to score against the side he left in the summer. In the end Inter, whose own forays on goal were rare, held on to ensure both teams opened UEFA Champions League Group F with a point.

From the outset Barça looked to overwhelm their hosts, creating three clear chances in the opening ten minutes. Within 80 seconds, Lionel Messi tested Júlio César, racing on to Xavi Hernández’s slide-rule pass, shimmying both ways and forcing the Brazilian into a one-handed save low to his left. Daniel Alves then floated a pass to Ibrahimović, who chested the ball down beautifully, only to fire his volley over. Inter’s defence was struggling to cope with Barca’s fluid passing and moments later Alves teed up Messi, whose header lacked power.

Save for Maicon’s 25-metre wayward strike, the Nerazzurri were creating little as well as looking vulnerable when not in possession. Messi broke through again on 20 minutes, and but for a superb tackle by Cristian Chivu, would have been one on one with Júlio César. Inter almost took the lead soon after when Diego Milito ran on to a long ball, cut inside Gerard Piqué and curled in a shot which Víctor Valdés did well to hold. Their next foray arrived moments later with Samuel Eto’o holding the ball up for Wesley Sneijder, who feigned a shot, switched feet, and fired over.

However, these were brief respites from what was a typically fluid Barcelona display. The visitors continued to pour forward in waves of orange, Thierry Henry finishing another slick passing move with a shot that was too high. Seydou Keita then dragged a chance wide from ten metres after fine wing play from Alves before Júlio César tipped over a long-range attempt from Messi.

After the break Inter showed more purpose, Sneijder unleashing an angled shot narrowly wide before substitute Dejan Stanković pounced on a loose ball, held up for him by Milito, and curled over the bar. The European champions were soon weaving their pretty patterns again, though, befuddling their Serie A counterparts with their intricate interplay, Messi an omnipresent danger. If anything Barcelona were guilty of over elaborating, at times electing for the extra pass when the chance to shoot was on. In the end Inter, and Lucio and Chivu in particular, deserve credit for keeping one of Europe’s most feared attacking forces at bay.