Xavi Pascual’s team came away from Croatia Zagreb, one of the most complicated venues in Europe, having strengthened their position at the top of their Champions League group with a brilliant performance and a key victory
CROATIA O. ZAGREB, 30
FCB INTERSPORT, 31
Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (14+16): Sego (Pesic); Horvat (10, 7p.), Kopljar (4),
Maric (3), Balic (2), Vukic (1), Tonci Valcic (3) –starting seven-, Spiler (6) Josip
Valcic, Sprem (1), Gal, Gojum.
FCB Intersport (13+18): Saric; Víctor Tomás (1), Nagy (6), Noddesbo, Jernemyr,
Entrerríos (3) Ugalde –starting seven-, Rutenka (7, 5p.), Mikel (3), Sorhaindo,
Igropulo (1), Juanin (6), Sarmiento (2), Morros, Balaguer (2), Sjostrand (keeper).
Five minute scores: 4-2, 5-4, 7-6, 9-9, 11-12, 14-13 (half time), 16-17, 19-21,
21-22, 24-25, 26-27 and 30-31 (full time).
Referees: Bernd Methe and Reiner Methe (Germany).
Venue: Arena Zagreb. 12.300 spectators.
Barça have enjoyed great moments in Zagreb in the past, and the game in Croatia lived up to Barça's past memories with a win which strengthens their position at the top of their Champions League group.
Tough from the start
It was clear early on that this wasn’t going to be an easy game for Barça as the Croatian team went 3-1 up and Barça didn’t seem to be playing well at all, as the hosts slowed down the game, trying to avoid the fast paced game that best suits the champions.
The tactics seemed to be working, as the home team moved to an 8-6 lead, before Rutenka grabbed two goals to draw Barça level for the first time, despite the immense pressure from the home crowd who greeted every decision from the referees that went against their team with howls and jeers.
The introduction of the youngster David Balaguer, making his debut for the team, had a very positive effect and his two goals put Barça ahead before the hosts came back to go in 14-13 up at the break.
Excellent second half
A flurry of three goals at the start of the second half set up an excellent second half, but the Croatians still looked dangerous, with the skillful Horvat especially causing problems for the Barça defence. However, Saric and Juanín were equal to the pressure and they soon began to impose themselves.
Barça stayed one or two goals ahead until the end, with Mikel exploding onto the court and the defence holding firm against the Croats' attempts to get back into the game, to come away with a valuable win.