Olympiacos 0-0 FC Barcelona: Shutout in Piraeus
Ernesto Valverde’s homecoming ends without score, but it’s no Greek tragedy as Barça remain well in command in Group D
Piraeus prepared a warm reception for a man who has brought them so much joy over the years, Ernesto Valverde, but that was as far as the hospitality went in tonight’s Champions League encounter.
Olympiacos were looking for their first point in Group D and Barça had won three out of three, but no matter how much the Catalans pushed and pushed, the Greek champions refused to budge and the game ended has it had begun.
Half chances and offside flags were the order of the first twenty minutes as Barça settled into their game amidst the extraordinary noise generated in the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
It was then that Leo Messi brought out an unorthodox save from Silvio Proto, shortly before Luis Suárez misfired the kind of the chance he normally gets on target. Barça appeared comfortably in control, spurred on by the assumption that Olympiacos’ defensive intensity couldn’t last for 90 minutes. But it did.
An impressive display by Denis Suárez down the left was another cause for optimism, but as the half progressed, it was home side whose confidence seemed to be growing most. Mainly on the back of rapid one-touch counter attacks, more and more of the action was in and around Ter Stegen’s area.
Barça weren’t having everything their own way and faced further concern when Sergi Roberto hobbled off with an injured hamstring shortly before the break. There was still a lot of work to be done in the second half…
Piling on the pressure
This was a very different Olympiacos to the one we saw at the Camp Nou, and although they’ve not been having the best of seasons to date, that didn’t show as they continued to bug Barça after the restart.
The Catalans were struggling to find a way through and failing to capitalise on the isolated chances they did create, most of which were falling to the increasingly more frustrated Luis Suárez.
Rock solid Greek defending was the main reason for that. No matter what Barça tried, a red and white shirt always got in the way.
The final ten minutes were the most intense of the whole game. By this stage, Olympiacos seemed happy enough to settle for a point to at least boost their Europa League bid.
Barça now had a free rein in midfield and the chances started flowing thick and fast. Goalmouth scramble followed goalmouth scramble, and Proto produced a fine save from a Messi free-kick, but the ball just didn’t want to go in.
And so it ended. Barça are a side that always want to win, and the players will be disappointed to be flying home with one point rather than three. But as Group D stands, with two games to go, there is no call for concern.