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Barça have been held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie with Galatasaray, leaving everything wide open for the return meeting in seven days’ time in Istanbul.
The Catalans struggled to get going in the first half but there was a vast improvement after the break, when almost all of the football was in the direction of the goal defended by a familiar face in Iñaki Peña.
Try and try as they did, however, they just could not get the goal in the back of the net.
No easy ride
The Turkish side have been having a dire season by their usual standards, but it’s a different story in Europe, where they are now unbeaten in eleven games. Former Barça staff member Domènec Torrent has been doing a fine job since taking the reins of the side, and any suggestions that this was going to be an easy ride were quickly dispelled.
Although most of the traffic was in the direction of their goal, the Turks never looked out of their depth at Camp Nou. Indeed, it was hard to understand how they are dwindling in twelfth place in the Süper Lig.
Barça’s best chances of the first half both fell to Memphis, one a delightfully curled free kick and another from just outside the area, and both occasions Iñaki Peña produced brilliant saves.
It must have been a bizarre evening for the goalkeeper, on loan to Galatasaray and playing against what until a couple of months ago were his squad-mates. And it was a highly commendable performance from the 23-year-old.
The visitors were spending most of their time keeping Barça’s attacks at bay, but they were creating some dangerous ones of their own too. Kerem Aktürkoglu showed why he’s one of the most talked-about names in Turkish football with a splendid run and a tremendous finish that would have found the net had Eric Garcia not managed to deflect it wide.
Relentless but unrewarded
Barça upped the intensity in the second half and chance after chance was flowing. Jordi Alba, Adama Traoré, Ousmane Dembélé… They all shot wide by the narrowest of margins, Frenkie de Jong was keeping Iñaki Peña’s gloves warm too…
Barça were now clicking and their football was electric. But not only were Galatasaray inexplicably hanging on by the skin of their teeth but they were also the first side to find the net. The Camp Nou breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out Bafétimbi Gomis had been offside.
Over to Istanbul
Barça pushed and pushed in search of something, but the Turks were astonishingly resilient at the back. Buoyed by some 1,500 travelling fans in the stands, they held out to the end.
So it’s over to the Nef Stadium next Thursday. Today was a setback but there’s plenty more football to be played in this fixture, and much as Galatasaray may have looked a much better side than some might have anticipated, there is no reason not to believe that Barça can now go to Turkey and get the job done.
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