Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona finally managed to vanquish their bogeyman with a 2-0 win over Rubin Kazan in front of a rather subdued crowd at the Camp Nou. Even the most powerful superheroes have their weaknesses.
For Superman it was Kryptonite, for Guardiola’s Barcelona over the last two seasons it’s been Rubin Kazan. The last time Kazan visited the Camp Nou they went home with a 2-1 win that was one of the surprise results of last year’s Champions League campaign. Since then the Catalan giants have only been ever to manage a draw against the Russian side. Until tonight that is.
Guardiola rested his star players for tonight’s match, choosing instead to field a young, inexperienced side consisting mostly of fringe players who’d come up through the Barcelona youth team augmented by a few old hands like Gerard Pique, Bojan Krkic and Jeffren. The Ballon d’ Or nominated trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta were left out as were the likes of David Villa, Carlos Puyol and keeper Victor Valdez.
The first half had few real highlights to speak of. However it was Kazan to whom the first chance of the match fell to when Cristian Ansaldi broke down the left and played in a cross that was headed straight to the far corner when Barca’s backup keeper Manuel Pinto pounced on it.
It looked for a moment as if things might wind up again heading south for Barca when they were forced to make two substitutions in the first 35 minutes when both Jeffren and Bojan came up injured. In both cases, Guardiola stuck to his plan of fielding young, fringe players, sending Victor Vazquez on for Jeffren and Marc Bartra for Bojan.
Some other unfamiliar names among the new look Barca were Andreu Fontas and Thiago Alcantara. The side also included the likes of Adriano and Javier Mascherano, two of last summer’s high profile signings that have yet to make much of an impact on the first team,
Barca’s B-team seemed capable of all the pretty pass and possess football that the senior squad are known for however with both strikers having been hobbled, they lacked danger in the final third. But Kazan seemed overawed and lacked the sense of adventure that might have allowed them to find a weakness in the inexperienced Catalan side.
To their credit they dealt well with what little threat Barca created in the first half such as Thiago’s shot from the top of the 18 just before the half hour mark was ably saved by keeper Sergei Ryzhikov. Jonathon Dos Santos also got off a decent shot from about 20 yards out that went wide of the target seconds before the half came to a close scoreless.
The deadlock was broken barely five minutes into the second half when Thiago passed to Fontas whose shot deflected off a defender into the far corner, while Ryzikhov dove in the opposite direction, making it 1-0.
Five minutes later Johnathon was subbed out to make way for Lionel Messi. The little Argentine began to wreak havoc on the Russian defenses almost from the word go, dancing past three defenders only to put his shot wide. Moments later he wound his way through four Kazan players and was unlucky to have had his shot blocked, just barely. Despite not scoring Messi’s efforts delighted the crowd who, by this point, had become about as subdued as the action on the pitch.
Barcelona doubled their lead in the 82nd minute through another of their up and comers, Victor Vazquez. The substitute received tha ball from Messi, broke down the middle and was allowed enough time and space to pick his spot, winding a shot past the helpless Ryzhikov to find the far corner, making it 2-0.
Messi almost made it three in the dying moments of the match with a curling effort from the edge of the 18 that went inches wide of the far post. With two additional minutes of injury time added on Barca continued their pass and probe game while Kazan defended in numbers seemingly resigned and uninterested in finding even a dignity goal. When the final whistle was blown the score remained 2-0. Barcelona have now topped their group and successfully booked their ticket into the next round while Rubin Kazan yet again find themselves headed down into the Europa League.