Defending European champions Barcelona held out for a 1-1 draw in Germany against a a very impressive but unlucky Stuttgart. This was the first time in a very long time that i have seen Barca outclassed.
The Catalans were reduced to mere spectators in the first half as Stuttgart tormented Barca defenders Puyol, Pique and Busquets for long periods of time. Stuttgart had literally pitched camp in the Barca half with Brazilian Cacau, Alexander Hleb and right back Molinaro giving Guardiola a nightmare of a half.
Barca were not their usual selves and it showed as they gave away lose balls in the midfield. Messi and Xavi had a few turnovers-again this was surprising to see as these two players never give away balls. Stuttgart’s persistence paid off in the 25th minute when Cacau nodded them ahead after Hleb brilliantly crossed a perfect ball across the face of goal that beat all Barcelona’s defenders and was met squarely with a powerful header from Cacau.
Barcelona almost grabbed an equaliser in the dying minutes of the first half as world player of the year Lionel Messi cut through the Stuttgart defense and unleashed a powerful shot that ricocheted off the post after Jehns Lehman could sent it wide.
After the re-start Barcelona showed just why they are the champions of Europe. They had a good early spell of the ball that resulted in their equaliser through Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This set the pace for an exhilarating last 20 minutes where both sides had perfect chances to wrap up the victory. Apart from the 2 penalty claims from handballs by both sides and a couple of yellow cards, the referee’s overall judgment of the game was good.
It will be an uphill task for Stuttgart when they travel to the Nou Camp in 2 weeks time to face Barcelona. Beating the Catalans at home is not very easy. They can however draw inspiration from Rubin Kazan the only team to beat Barcelona in Europe in the the last 2 years.
Photo credit: Expressen SE