Radomir Antic said FC Barcelona had achieved the "optimal" result after drawing with Juventus FC.
By Marcus Christenson
FC Barcelona coach Radomir Antic admitted after the 1-1 draw with Juventus FC on Wednesday that though his side had rarely sparkled, a thoroughly professional display had produced an "optimal" result that puts the Catalan club in the driving seat for a place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
Saviola on target
Javier Saviola struck 12 minutes from time in this quarter-final first leg to stretch Barcelona's unbeaten run in the Champions League to 15 games, cancelling out Paolo Montero's first-half effort for the home side.
In cold, grey conditions at the Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin, both sides struggled to create chances on a slippery pitch and Juventus seemed more interested in keeping a clean sheet than pushing forward. Barcelona created even less and Saviola's equaliser was their first noteworthy chance of the game.
For Antic, however, it was the result, not the manner in which it had been achieved, that mattered. "We didn't play our best match of the season but the result we got out of it was optimal," he said. "Juventus scored first from a set-piece and this gave them a lot of confidence, but we reacted in a great way in the second half and continued to work until we got the equaliser."
Antic admitted that Barcelona had been unusually defensive, but insisted it would be a different story in the return leg. "I am sure that we will see a completely different Barcelona at the Camp Nou," he said. "And of course there will be 100,000 fans cheering us on. It is difficult to say whether we are favourites now and I am not going to speculate in percentages. All I can say is that it will be a different Barça."
Antic had every reason to be content with his side who even came close to winning the game when Patrick Kluivert broke free with eight minutes to go. A smart save from Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon, however, thwarted the Dutchman. A Barça win would have been hard on the hosts and Juve coach Marcello Lippi was disappointed by his side's failure to press home their advantage. "I don't think that the result was fair," he said. "Juve did more than Barcelona and deserved to win."
Puyol on form
Juve had been boosted before the match when midfield player Pavel Nedved was passed fit to play, but without the injured David Trezeguet and Marcelo Salas they failed to build on their lead with Nedved and Del Piero creating few chances against a stubborn Barcelona defence, marshalled superbly by the resolute Carlos Puyol.
Zalayeta left out
Surprisingly, Lippi elected to start Del Piero as a lone striker with Igor Tudor coming into midfield, while forward Marcelo Zalayeta was left on the bench. But the Juve coach insisted that his team selection had been spot on. "I don't think we could have played better than we did today," he said. "We didn't have Trezeguet, and [Marco] Di Vaio was not in perfect condition. In addition, some of our players have just recovered from injuries, but I hope that their physical condition will have improved in two weeks' time."
Juventus looked to be heading for a comfortable win before Saviola struck, but the Italian side now face the daunting task of having to either draw by 2-2 or more or win at the Camp Nou. Lippi, however, is still confident that his side can progress. "Despite their goal I don't think that it will be that easy for Barcelona to beat Juventus, even in front of 100,000 fans," he said.