Barcelona coach Luis Enrique admitted his frustration after Champions League Group E rivals Roma’s solid defensive display earned the Italians a hard-fought point from a thrilling 1-1 draw on Wednesday.
Barcelona have set their sights on becoming the first side since AC Milan in 1990 to win back-to-back European titles. But despite a dominant performance throughout, the Catalans were left frustrated as Bayer Leverkusen, 4-1 winners over BATE Borisov, went two points clear at the top of the group.
In what was Lionel Messi’s 100th Champions League appearance, the Argentine was upstaged by Alessandro Florenzi’s stunning leveller for the hosts from just inside the halfway line on 31 minutes.
Enrique, who spent a fruitless season as coach of Roma in the 2011/12 season, said:
“I would have expected us to come up against a more attacking team. Instead, they chose a different approach. He added: “I’m satisfied with how we played, we created a lot of chances and when your opponents close up at the back it’s not easy.”
Given Barcelona’s firepower, and the fact Roma were humiliated by a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in January, the Giallorossi had every reason to go on the defensive. Despite a series of counter-attacks by Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah offering promise early on, Barcelona gradually settled into their trademark possession and passing game to leave the Stadio Olimpico eerily silent as fans watched in awe.
As usual Lionel Messi was at the centerof the Catalans’s goal, when he backed into Lucas Digne, causing the Frenchman to fall. The subsequent confusion over whether a foul had been committed gave Barcelona a split second’s momentum and Rakitic went unchallenged at the near post to send in a lob for Luis Suarez to head home at the back post, as Roma’s players protested in vain.
Roma fans might have expected an onslaught after that goal but Roma responded in spectacular fashion just after the half hour. Seeing goalkeeperMarc-Andre Ter Stegen 15 yards off his line, Florenzi carried the ball into Barcelona’s half near the right touchline, looked up and hit a drive that sailed over the keeper, off the far post and into the net.
“I couldn’t believe it went in,” said Florenzi, who none the less has a habit of scoring the occasional spectacular goal in Serie A. “I held up my hands to my face in disbelief. I don’t do that very often.”