FC Barcelona 0-0 Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC and FC Barcelona shared the spoils after a bruising UEFA Champions League stalemate at the Camp Nou stadium in their penultimate Group B match on Wednesday night.
All to play for
With the other match in the section also ending in a draw, Liverpool, four-time European champions, must now defeat AS Roma at Anfield next week to progress, while the Catalan side will need a victory if Liverpool do take all three points, but just a draw if the Italian champions win.
Liverpool earned the right to keep their Group B hopes alive with an uncomprimising display. Steven Gerrard, Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann presented the home side with a solid white wall to break through in midfield, tackling with real menace when the occasion required, while Stéphane Henchoz and Sami Hyypiä let nothing or no one get through the centre of defence all night long.
Indeed, those five players provided the platform for the visitors to dominate most of the first half, with Gerrard going close twice from John Arne Riise crosses. On the first occasion the England midfield player just failed to make contact at the far post when he looked certain to score and, later in the half, headed just wide when he rose well above the home defence.
But how Liverpool missed the injured Michael Owen. Emile Heskey held the ball up well and caused the wily Frank de Boer any number of problems until he went off injured in the second half, but he really needed his strike partner's pace alongside him to break the home side down. Jari Litmanen, back in front of his former employers, was a peripheral figure before being replaced by Vladimír Šmicer. The Czech fared little better. Liverpool have now scored just two goals in five games in this stage of the Champions League and they will need their talisman back next week if they are to progress.
Barcelona's front three of Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola had to dig deep for the first half-hour, feeding on scraps when they did appear and shooting from distance. As the half wore on, though, their sumptuous skills came more into play, with the slight Argentinian Saviola in particular showing just why he cost over €20m last summer. Indeed, he made Barcelona's best chance of the first period, breaking down the right side of the area to tee up an inviting cross for Luis Enrique, who failed to connect.
And it was Saviola who led Jamie Carragher a merry dance throughout the second half. After 66 minutes it was another of his crosses as he broke in from the inside-right position that Philippe Christanval headed against the post with Jerzy Dudek beaten. Carragher had been warned but was completely helpless when, moments later, Saviola put the ball through the England man's legs but skewed his shot wide. Saviola was given a rousing reception when he was substituted with three minutes to play, and he more than deserved it.
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