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A stubborn defensive display ensured Rangers FC shared the spoils with FC Barcelona in a pulsating yet goalless encounter as both sides preserved their unbeaten UEFA Champions League records.
Visitors on top
Despite controlling the game, the closest the Catalan giants came to breaking through was a long-range Ronaldinho free-kick midway through the first period which thumped against the crossbar, although Eidur Gudjohnsen and Thierry Henry passed up presentable headed opportunities in each half. The result means the teams remain level on seven points at the top of Group E ahead of the return fixture at the Camp Nou in two weeks.
Gudjohnsen came into the Barcelona lineup in place of the injured Deco and should have opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute when he rose to head Xavi Hernández's corner just over. The visitors enjoyed the bulk of the early pressure and Carlos Cuéllar was forced to intervene in the 14th minute after Henry sent Lionel Messi through on goal. The Argentinian's miscued shot beat Allan McGregor and, although it looked to be going wide, the Rangers centre-back took no chances, clearing to safety.
Foraging runs by Nacho Novo and Charlie Adam raised the morale of the home crowd, but they were almost silenced in the 24th minute when Ronaldinho demonstrated his set-piece prowess, curling in a 25-metre free-kick which McGregor did well to tip on to the bar. Ten minutes before half-time, Kevin Thomson picked up a yellow card which rules him out of the second instalment of this double-header after tugging Henry's shirt on the edge of the box, though Ronaldinho failed to capitalise by drilling his set-piece into the wall.
With the interval approaching, visiting captain Carles Puyol, playing in an unaccustomed right-back role, tested McGregor again with a near-post header and from the resulting corner Ronaldinho's shot was charged down by Alan Hutton as Barcelona finished the half as they had started it – on the front foot. The second period continued in much the same vein with the Blaugrana having the majority of the play only to be thwarted by a sea of blue shirts every time they got near the Rangers area.
Frustrated by the lack of penetration, Gudjohnsen tried a speculative long-range effort that was easily smothered by McGregor before Henry danced clear of Hutton to cut back invitingly for Ronaldinho, who dallied and the chance was gone. Ronaldinho was involved again just before the hour, latching on to Messi's pass but Cuéllar flicked his cutback away from the lurking Henry.
The Barcelona forward nodded a corner too high before play then swung to the other end with Daniel Cousin delivering a tempting cross that just eluded Barry Ferguson at the far post. Sensing they had weathered the worst of the storm, Rangers manager Walter Smith introduced DaMarcus Beasley as his side pushed for a winner, although the contest would end in typical fashion: with Barcelona on the attack but failing to break down an obdurate Rangers defence.
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