Champions League: Messi returns, Hazard stars but Barcelona fail to shine

Lionel Messi returned from injury for Barcelona as he made a second half appearance but they failed to win their opening game of the 2019/20 Champions League game, holding Borussia Dortmund to a 0-0 draw at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday evening.

Marco Reus missed a penalty and could easily have given Dortmund all three points, but was guilty of missing several other chances as the Bundesliga side were held in their first game of this season’s competition, but Lucien Favre will take solace in the performances of the likes of Thorgan Hazard and goalkeeper Burki.

Paco ALcacer came close to scoring for Dortmund, but failed to register his name on the scoresheet.

This was always going to be one exciting game – on paper at least – being two of the most exciting teams in Europe. While Dortmund may not have the pedigree and history of Barcelona, what they do have, however, is a young and exciting team and managed by one of the most brilliant coaches in Europe. Barca, for all their recent frailties, remains a top-of-the-bill side and even in the absence of Messi, appear to have discovered a gem in Ansu Fati.

So when the referee signaled the start of the game, there was only one thing fans, neutrals especially would have in mind – end-to-end stuff! But if anything, games like this have often disappointed in that regard than they haven’t.

Jordi Alba was taken off after being injured in the goalless draw with Dortmund.

And so it began, with both teams playing on the high press and trying to turn each other over and win possession as higher up the pitch as possible. There were occasions when both sides lost possession, but it never really resulted in any real danger.

The first real opportunity would come in the 24th minute, when a fine pass found Marco Reus in space inside the box, he looked up and drilled a low shot towards the middle of the goal, but the Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen reacted superbly to deny him. That could easily have been the first goal.

Three minutes later, Dortmund would go close again when Mats Hummels wasted a great chance as he climbed high around the penalty spot to connect with a cross from a free-kick. He produced a header which went just over the crossbar.

Marco Reus missed a penalty in the goalless draw.

However, those chances would seem the only real ones in the first half, as it went by without any other real incident but not before Barca were forced into a substitution following Jordi Alba’s injury, with Sergi Roberto taking his place.

But the turn of the first half saw a quick opportunity for Barca. Roman Burki could hear the fans clapping for his superb goalkeeping after he magnificently stopped a close-range effort from Luis Suarez. The ball would have probably ended up inside the left post, but it went out of play.

And in the 55th minute, Dortmund were awarded a penalty after Nelson Semedo was adjudged by referee Ovidiu Hategan to have committed a foul inside his own goal area and wasted no time in pointing to the spot. Reus stepped up but Ter Stegen moved in the right direction to brilliantly save the kick and keep the game scoreless.

Ansu Fati made his Champions League debut for Barcelona tonight.

Four minutes later, the newest kid on the block, Fati, was replaced with Messi coming on for his first game of the season.

The game began to look livelier as it wore on and in the 71sh minute, Paco Alcacer received a brilliant pass and wasted a big opportunity as his shot from inside the penalty area flew narrowly wide of the right post.

And on 77 minutes, Julian Brandt wasted another promising chance! He tried his luck with a shot from mid-range, but his effort hit the crossbar! A few inches lower and it could have been a sweet goal! One minute later, it was Reus again, as he ran onto a loose pass inside the box and released a tremendous shot towards the bottom right corner. However, Marc-Andre ter Stegen anticipated the shot and made a brilliant save.

Lionel Messi came off the bench for his first appearance of the season.

And with three minutes added on, both side could not find the back of the net and Dortmund will rue their missed chances as the game ended 0-0.

Dortmund starting XI: Burki; Achraf, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Witsel, Delaney; Sancho, Reus, T.Hazard; Paco Alcácer.

Barcelona starting XI: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, Busquets, De Jong, Arthur, Ansu Fati, Griezmann, Suarez.