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Dec 22, 2010

FC Barcelona failed to break a tough Athletic defense

FC Barcelona non-stop winning streak has been ended by the Basque club, Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey tie. FC Barcelona tried everything to break a determined defense, but had to settle with a goaless draw in the end. The second leg of the tie will be held in the first week of the new year. Guardiola rested five players from the one which started against Espanyol, still the side was a very good one. Jose Pinto was back in goal as he is the chosen one for the King's cup. The defense had Pique and Abidal at the centre with Alves and Maxwell on the flanks. The midfield has Xavi, Mascherano and Keita. Iniesta was back in the front along with Bojan and Pedro.

Bojan got the proceedings going in the 7th minute with a curling effort from outside of box which was comfortably saved by the keeper. We were having most of the possession but failed to create anything meaningful for the next twenty minutes. In the 25th minute Iniesta forced a great save from the keeper from just outside the box. In the 29th minute Iniesta once again forced another save from another shot from outside the box. Athletic Bilbao werevery well organised in the box and we were finding it difficult to penetrate into the box. Athletic main threat came from aerial deliveries and set pieces and they did trouble us occasionally in first 40 minutes. The first half ended with us struggling to create any chance inside the box. All our chances in the first half came from outside the box.

Athletic came out in the second half to take home a 0-0 draw. In the 52nd minute Dani Alves almost picked up Xavi in the box but Xavi couldn't get a sizeable contact. In the 54th minute Guardiola brought in Messi for Keita. With Messi in we were finding much more easier to regain and hold on to possession. In the 63rd minute Guardiola brought in Villa to find that goal taking Bojan off. Bojan started well but have struggled to make any impression against a compact Athletic defense. In the 68th minute Villa saw his shot blocked by the defense after good work by Dani Alves. In the 79th minute Villa had a shot gone high. Guardiola replaced Mascerano with Adriano to give more attacking threat to the side. In the 88th minute Messi spotted the great run by Pique, but he shot it wide. It was the best chnace with an open goal infront of him.

Athletic came out with a great plan to stiffle Barcelona from creating any clear cut chances. They formed a very tight compact in the middle of the goal and none of our balls were finding any of the intended target. Our crosses from both the wings were very poor throughout the match. A goalless draw is not a bad thing for Barcelona, but we would have loved to have a victory to take to Basque country side. Everything is still left to play in the second leg but it is going to be a very tough job away from home. We have won there already this season and a repeat of the same should comfortably see us through. Guardiola may have erred in not selecting a much more stronger starting eleven. That allowed the Basque club to settle down to their game plan.

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