Barcelona 0-0 Benfica: Xavi frustrated on European return with Champions League hopes in the balance

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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Benfica in a Champions League match where the scoreline did not do justice to the action.

Nicolas Otamendi had a goal disallowed for the visitors, and Ronald Araujo for Barcelona late on, before Haris Seferovic’s extraordinary miss with effectively the last kick of the match saw it finish a draw.

It means Xavi’s side are still second in the group, two points ahead of Benfica, but they have to travel to face Bayern Munich in their final group-stage match.

Barcelona started the better of the two sides, pressing high up the pitch and breaking quickly.

Jordi Alba and Yusuf Demir both had efforts well saved, while Gavi blasted over from close-range.

Benfica thought they had taken the lead after 35 minutes, when Nicolas Otamendi whipped in a wonderful effort off the bar with his left foot.

But the linesman decided the ball had gone out of play from the corner before swinging back in, and the goal was ruled out.

On the stroke of half-time, Demir crashed a curling effort against the bar, as the teams went into the break level.

The momentum turned when Ousmane Dembele was introduced after 66 minutes, with the Benfica defence unable to live with him.

His cross set up a Frenkie De Jong header, which was well tipped over the bar, but the real drama was still to come.

Araujo thought he had won it with just over five minutes to go, only for his cushioned finish to be disallowed for offside just as he was off celebrating.

If Benfica do not qualify for the knockout stages, they will rue the last few seconds and Seferovic’s miss.

The striker was played clean through by Darwin Nunez, dinked it over Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but somehow poked wide in front of an open goal, as a thrilling match finished goalless.

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