Ibrahimovic away goal gives Barca edge over Stuttgart

Stuttgart 1 Barcelona 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's second-half equaliser earned Champions League holders Barcelona a hard-fought draw from the first leg of their last-16 tie against Stuttgart tonight.

Cacau, fresh from his four-goal haul against Cologne at the weekend, gave Stuttgart a deserved half-time lead but Ibrahimovic struck just after the interval to put Barca in the box seat heading into the second leg at the Nou Camp.

Barca were boosted by the return to action of Xavi and Ibrahimovic, who both missed Saturday's 4-0 win over Racing Santander through injury, but neither of them had much chance to shine in the first half.

The home side, who have improved immensely under Christian Gross and had won six of their previous seven games, were determined to take the game to Barca and were rewarded when Cacau broke the deadlock in the 25th minute with a powerful header.

Timo Gebhart's cross from near the touchline was inch-perfect, just clearing Carles Puyol at the far post and allowing Cacau head past the helpless Victor Valdes.

Cacau had a chance to make it 2-0 in the 32nd minute after picking up Pavel Pogrebniak's knock down near the halfway line and sprinting towards the Barca box, but this time Valdes was equal to the Brazil-born German international's effort.

Stuttgart were refusing to let the reigning champions settle and created another opportunity in the 35th minute following good work by on-loan Barca player Alexander Hleb.

Christian Trasch wasted the chance though, slicing his shot well wide from the edge of the area.

Barca's much-vaunted attack were getting little change out of the Stuttgart defence, but from nowhere they almost grabbed an equaliser five minutes before the break.

Lionel Messi, who had been his side's main threat, fired in a shot from 25 yards that looked set to creep in at the far post after only being half stopped by Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

However, the ball struck the post and rebounded back into the veteran's arms.

A minute later Stuttgart created another opening when Pogrebniak burst past Gerard Pique and Valdes was again called upon to save his side.

Barca fans might have been fearing the worst at the break, but they need not have worried as the Catalan giants looked much more comfortable in the second half.

It took Pep Guardiola's side just seven minutes to get back on level terms thanks to Ibrahimovic.

Pique used his 6ft 3in frame to good effect to nod a high ball down to Ibrahimovic, and although Lehmann blocked his first effort, the Swede slotted home at the second attempt.

Ibrahimovic looked certain to put Barca ahead in the 67th minute after Lehmann had failed to collect a corner, but the former Inter Milan striker's goal-bound shot struck Cristian Molinaro on the line and rebounded over the bar.

Barca were enjoying much more quality possession but Stuttgart were still pushing forward whenever they could and Valdes did well to smother Ciprian Marica's shot at point-blank range.

Barca were also keen to force a winner, but neither side could find a winner in the closing stages.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'