Barça blank fails to faze Guardiola

Catalans coach takes the positives despite goalless draw with <i>Internazionale</i>
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The Independent Football

The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, was proud of his side's performance against Internazionale on Wednesday even though the Champions League holders could not turn their dominance into goals.

Barça bossed the game throughout and created by far the better chances of the two sides at San Siro, but they had to settle for a goalless draw after being unable to find the breakthrough. Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita missed the best chances for the visitors, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic also had at least one decent opportunity to score on his return to his former club.

Inter's goalkeeper Julio Cesar also played his part in keeping Barça out, while the Catalan club were aggrieved not to have been awarded a late penalty following an apparent handball by Dejan Stankovic.

Despite not coming away with the three points though, Guardiola was full of praise for his side, saying: "Everybody could see that we've gone out to try and win this game. Nobody can deny that, and this is a reason to feel proud."

He added: "It's never easy to score when there are nine players in the area. The result is what it is. It's not bad, but neither is it good."

Barça president, Joan Laporta, said: "We've fought and we've shown great spirit. We dominated and perhaps we deserved to win. I want to congratulate the squad because they've done very well. It's a pity that we haven't scored despite having chances."

Much of the build-up to the game focused on how strikers Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto'o would do against their former clubs following their summer switch.

Ibrahimovic, who Barça gave Inter £40m plus Eto'o to sign, enjoyed more possession and chances than his counterpart, but neither player was able to mark the occasion with a goal.

Nevertheless, Ibrahimovic was pleased with the result, saying: "I'm happy because Inter are a very strong team. It would have been fairer for Barça to have got the three points, but one point is sufficiently good. It's been emotional to play in Milan against my ex-team-mates."

Ibrahimovic was happy to ignore the predictable boos on his first return to Milan but was unable to answer the sceptics who still doubt his ability to finally make a mark in Europe.

The 0-0 draw in the Group F opener prompted more questions than answers for both sides, even if Barça shaded the contest in terms of technical ability.

Questions also remain over the Swede, who hopes his swap deal with Eto'o can turn him into one of the most feared strikers in the continent after invariably flattering to deceive for Inter in the Champions League.

His talents in the domestic game are undoubted, given he inspired Inter to three Italian titles, and he was full prepared for jeers from parts of San Siro. "Some whistled, it's normal when you lose a player you did not want to lose," he said. "With a bit of luck I could even have scored."

In truth, Ibrahimovic snatched at a good early chance and failed to impose himself despite some tidy link-up play. "I'm very happy, in my opinion we have players better than Inter," he said.

Eto'o, who scored the opener when Barça beat Manchester United 2-0 to lift the trophy last May, put in a similarly indifferent performance as Ibrahimovic against his former side.

"It was difficult for him. But he worked hard for the team and that's why I like Samuel," the Inter coach Jose Mourinho told a news conference after – in typical Mourinho style – refusing to comment on Ibrahimovic's display.

"We had a great chance go over the bar from Stankovic and then [Davide] Santon was pulled back when through on goal," Mourinho added. "If we had scored, we would have won, but we wouldn't have deserved it as Barcelona was better."