Barcelona battle out useful draw in Kazan
Barcelona came from behind to battle out a 1-1 draw away to Russian champions Rubin Kazan on Wednesday, in a game of two penalties, dpa reported.
Christian Noboa gave Kazan a shock lead from the penalty spot in their Group D game, while David Villa levelled for Barca with a calm spot-kick.
Curiously, Barca have failed to beat Kazan in three matches now. Last season the Russians surprisingly beat them in the Camp Nou then held out for a draw in Kazan.
"They are not a bad team at all," said Barca playmaker Xavi.
"They defend really well," he added, "but then they do get a lot of men into attacking positions when they break. In the circumstances, this is not really a bad result for us."
Noboa, for his part, said that "a draw is probably just about a fair result, though both teams did have clear chances to win at the end."
As expected, Barca dominated possession from start to finish in the packed Central Stadium, though they did not create many clear chances.
The closest they came to scoring in the first half was when Pedro, on the stretch, hit the crossbar after being played through cleverly by Villa.
Kazan's first proper attack did not come until the 29th minute, and it led to their goal. Right-back Vitali Kaleshin was clumsily bundled over by Dani Alves for a penalty.
And even though Barca keeper Victor Valdes managed to touch Noboa's kick, he could not keep it out.
Predictably, the goal made Kazan even more cautious and defensive. The response of Barca coach was to bring on Lionel Messi but the little Argentine was not as lively as usual after a 10-day injury layoff.
Barca's penalty came in the 59th minute, when Lasha Salukvadze pulled down Iniesta. Villa calmly made it 1-1 from the spot.
Substitute Obafemi Martins should have scored for Kazan in a frantic finale but instead headed against the post. At the other end, Bojan and Iniesta wasted good chances for Barca.
The result sees Barcelona top the group with four points from FC Copenhagen, who are away to Panathinaikos later Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Inter Milan face Werder Bremen and Tottenham Hotspur are at home to Twente Enschede in Group A, while Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv face Olympique Lyon in a Group B game, with Schalke taking on Benfica Lisbon in the other group game.
In Group C Manchester United travel to Valencia, while Glasgow Rangers are at home to Bursaspor.