Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barça stay top (0-0)

Barça stay top (0-0)

FC Barcelona stayed on top of La Primera with their first draw of the season against a determined Valencia side in Mestalla on Saturday evening.

The visitors were hoping to make club history by securing their seventh straight league win at the start of the campaign, but had to settle for a share of the spoils in a tight encounter that saw both teams without their first choice strikers both not in the starting sides.

While David Villa was in stands for Valencia, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was named on the bench after the knock that he received on international duty and did not make an appearance. For the visitors though Víctor Valdés was at his best, while Andrés Iniesta was asked to play in the front three in the absence of Thierry Henry along with Pedro and Lionel Messi.

Vital Valdés

The first notable chance that came in a game of few clear opportunities and it fell to the home side as Pablo Hernández tested Valdés. Valencia then implemented their well-prepared tactics that were clearly designed to nullify Barça where and when it was possible as they blocked up the midfield and kept seven or eight men back when the visitors ventured forward.

Iniesta close

In the opening half the home side looked confident as the majority of the game was played in the Barcelona as Xavi was unable to find space or time to help his side move clear. It was not until the 35th minute that the away team had their first good chance and it was Iniesta that tested César.

Change of dynamic

Within four minutes of the second half starting Messi had a chance but he was unable to connect properly with his volley and the ball went wide. The game began to open up and Pedro saw César deny him after he had been set up by Xavi just after the midfielder himself had seen a shot deflected behind the goal for a corner.

Few chances

Valencia were still looking like they could spring a surprise and Mathieu sent a rasping drive off target before Pablo looked to chip Valdés only for the Barça keeper to tip the ball over. Messi showed glimpses of skill, but in the last 20 minutes chances were at a premium and a goalless draw looked more and more likely. After winning their first six matches of the campaign and with 13 players having been away in the past two weeks on World Cup duty Pep Guardiola's side can be pleased with a performance against a difficult Valencia team that will no doubt be challenging for the top four again this term.

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