A spot of Andres Iniesta magic
and a late David Villa strike lifted profligate Barcelona to a
2-0 home win over competition newcomers Viktoria Plzen in
Champions League Group H on Wednesday.
Playmaker Iniesta netted for the holders as early as the
10th minute at a balmy Nou Camp arena but in the face of
near-constant pressure on their goal the visitors somehow
managed to hold firm until Villa scored eight minutes from time.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi had a frustrating
night, twice hitting the post and several times being denied by
last-ditch tackles after typically breathtaking runs.
The Czech champions, making their debut in Europe's elite
club competition, did not muster a shot on goal while Barca had
18 attempts - although only four on target - and more than 70
percent of possession.
The victory, which extended Barca's unbeaten run to 19 in
all competitions, lifted them to seven points after three of six
games, level with Italian side AC Milan who beat BATE Borisov of
Plzen and BATE, who lost 5-0 at home to Barca on matchday
two, each have one point.
"We found it tougher to decide the match than usual but we
are pleased to have the win and to make progress," Villa said in
an interview with Spanish television.
"When you are only 1-0 ahead things can get difficult
because it's only a narrow lead but typically we would convert
at least one of our chances."
Iniesta's goal came after a trademark quick-fire passing move
that left the visiting defenders in disarray.
He twice exchanged passes with Messi before dinking the ball
around his marker and sidefooting narrowly inside the near post
from close range.
Villa made sure of the three points when he followed up
after a Messi effort and swept the ball high into the net.
Messi, Champions League top scorer the past three seasons,
had earlier curled a long-range free-kick on to the inside of an
upright and flicked the ball on to the post after a dazzling run
early in the second half.
Plzen's failure to muster a shot was only the second time
that has happened in a Champions League game in the last five
seasons after English Premier League side Arsenal suffered the
same fate against Barca last term.
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba was under no illusions about the
overwhelming superiority of his side's opponents and said Barca
were "in a league of their own."
"I watched the last few games Barca played and it's always
the same story with them totally dominating possession," he told
a news conference.
"The Barca players are the best in the world and I would say
they are perfection, there is no other way to define it.
"I said yesterday it would be a miracle if we were able to
stop those players but we were not able to manage it."
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