A Patrick Kluivert goal eight minutes from time was enough to earn Group B leaders FC Barcelona a 1-1 draw with AS Roma at the Camp Nou in their UEFA Champions League second group stage fixture on Wednesday.
The Dutch striker kept his cool after Carlos Puyol had swung in a precise right-wing cross and blasted the ball past Roma goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli from ten metres. It was the cue for enormous relief at in the stadium and for a belated Barcelona revival after the game seemed to be slipping from their grasp.
Roma coach Fabio Capello had made no secret of his side's aim to frustrate Barcelona and that is exactly what they did for 80 minutes of a tactically riveting tie. The defensive trio of Christian Panucci, Walter Samuel and Jonathan Zebina denied Barcelona's Rivaldo, Javier Saviola and Kluivert space and time and it seemed for a long while that Roma would leave Spain with all three points.
The Seria A side set out their stall early on, relentlessly hounding their opponents while in possession and denying them clear scoring opportunities. Rivaldo and Sergi Barjuán both shot wide from distance in the early stages of the game, but uncompromising defending denied them any gilt-edged chances.
So close for Barcelona
Their best opportunity of the first period came after 13 minutes when Rivaldo just failed to get on the end of Saviola's knock-down after Puyol's left-wing cross had eluded the Roma defence. As the game drew on, however, it was the visitors who began to look the more dangerous side.
Frustration for Rivaldo
Francesco Totti and Gabriel Batistuta both had good efforts from distance, but, perhaps more importantly, Barcelona began to look frustrated, and there was no better evidence than when Rivaldo made an unnecessary challenge on Vincent Candela to earn himself a yellow card after 42 minutes.
Roma roar back
If anything, Barcelona were even more indisciplined after the break as Roma surprised Carles Rexach's side by attacking them from the whistle. Emerson da Rosa looked shocked to see no players on the end of his teasing pull back after a minute of the second period, but it was not long before the Italian champions took the lead.
Goal for Panucci
After 57 minutes, they won a free-kick to the left of the Barcelona penalty area. Candela swung the ball into the area and Panucci was surprised to have time and space to turn and slam the ball past José Reina from six metres out.
Roma in retreat
It was a lax piece of defending and it looked like it would cost Barça dear as Roma retreated into their own half and looked set to spend the rest of the game defending in the same impassive style that characterised their first-half display.
Barcelona had used all three of their substitutes and looked to have run out of momentum when they finally found salvation in the form of Kluivert. It was hard on Roma, perhaps, but the Italian side can count themselves lucky that they did not concede again in the final minutes as Barcelona pushed for glory.
With both matches in Group B ending in draws, little has changed. Barcelona remain top with five points, two ahead of Roma and Galatasaray SK. Liverpool FC, who were held at home by the Turkish side, are bringing up the rear with two points. Roma could take a decisive advantage as they host Barcelona at the Olimpico stadium next week on Matchday Ten.