FC Rubin Kazan produced a disciplined defensive display to earn a goalless draw against FC Barcelona on a freezing night in UEFA Champions League Group F.
No way through
A fortnight ago the Russian titleholders shocked European football by winning 2-1 in Camp Nou but there was to be no repeat as Josep Guardiola's side dominated this Matchday 4 encounter without ever being able to make the breakthrough their play may have warranted. The teams went level on five points from four games, one short of new section leaders FC Internazionale Milano.
Rubin had been boosted by the return of captain Sergei Semak after an adductor injury yet if the home supporters were hoping the cold weather – it was -7C at kick-off – would help Rubin, they were mistaken. Barcelona were immediately on the attack and almost forged ahead inside three minutes. Andrés Iniesta's delightful through ball sent Zlatan Ibrahimović one on one with Sergei Ryzhikov, but his shot grazed the post with the Rubin goalkeeper beaten.
Rubin were trying to hit the European champions on the counterattack yet Barcelona's monopoly of possession, particularly in midfield, restricted their efforts. Little by little, however, the hosts found their rhythm and only a last-ditch Carles Puyol challenge prevented Gökdeniz Karadeniz from breaking clear, before a tackle from Daniel Alves stopped Alejandro Domínguez bursting through. Barça continued to hold sway, though, and on 19 minutes Xavi Hernández's chip narrowly cleared the crossbar. Then Ryzhikov had to dive at the feet of Lionel Messi to thwart the Argentinian.
There were echoes of Matchday 3 – Barcelona were bossing play but the Rubin defence looked a tough nut to crack. The Tatar outfit had still to register an attempt on goal until five minutes before the break, when it took a smart low save by Víctor Valdés to keep Aleksandr Ryazantsev from firing them ahead. At the other end, Ryzhikov blocked from Iniesta after Ibrahimović's quickly taken free-kick had caught the Rubin rearguard unawares.
The second period started much as the first had ended, with the Spanish Liga's finest continuing to pour forward. Barcelona were upping the tempo and exerting more pressure on Ryzhikov's goal, while for Rubin, Domínguez cut a lonely figure up front and rarely saw the ball. In a bid to alter the flow of the game, home coach Kurban Berdyev brought on Aleksandr Bukharov for Gökdeniz but the change hardly checked the Azulgrana: Ibrahimović was next to threaten with a free-kick that flew straight at Ryzhikov.
Even so, Bukharov could have won the match for Rubin, only his control let him down when faced with a clear sight of goal. The same player also glanced a Semak corner over the woodwork late on. With time running out, substitute Thierry Henry screwed an effort wide to preserve the stalemate in a contest that became increasingly stretched in its final throes.