Barcelona held by Benfica at home in Champions League

AP , Wednesday 24 Nov 2021

Barcelona was held by Benfica to a 0-0 draw at home Tuesday and will likely need a victory at Bayern Munich in its final group game to advance in the Champions League.

Benfica s Brazilian defender Gilberto Junior (L) fights for the ball with Barcelona s Brazilian defender Dani Alves during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica, at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 23, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

A win at the Camp Nou Stadium would have guaranteed Barcelona a spot in the knockout stages for the 18th straight season, but it couldn't capitalize on its chances in what was Xavi Hernandez's coaching debut in the top European club competition.

Defender Ronald Araujo thought he had scored the crucial winner in the 83rd but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Benfica had its own chance in stoppage time when Haris Seferovic got past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen but failed to find the net.

The draw kept the Catalan club in second place in Group E, two points ahead of Benfica, but the Portuguese side has the tiebreaker advantage if it beats already eliminated Dynamo Kyiv at home and Barcelona fails to defeat group winner Bayern in Germany in the final round.

Bayern won 2-1 at Dynamo in the other match Tuesday for its fifth straight victory.

Xavi, the former midfielder who helped Barcelona win four Champions League titles as a player, made his coaching debut in a much-needed win against Espanyol in a Spanish league derby at the weekend, a result that ended the team's four-match winless streak.

Benfica hasn't made it past the group stage since 2016-17, when it was eliminated by Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.

Barcelona played well and looked in control from the start even though it didn't create many significant scoring opportunities.

It was Benfica that almost broke the deadlock in the 34th with a powerful header by Roman Yaremchuck that prompted a foot save by Ter Stegen at the goal line. A couple of minutes later, a goal by Nicolas Otamendi didn't stand because Everton's free kick cross went out of bounds in the buildup.

Barcelona answered when Yusuf Demir's curling left-footed shot struck the crossbar in the 42nd, and in the second half Memphis Depay almost opened the scoring in a breakaway in the 57th.

Ousmane Dembele, coming off an injury, came off the bench in the 66th and quickly set up a header by Frenkie de Jong that prompted a difficult save by Benfica goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos. Dembele also had a chance in a one-on-one situation in the final minutes but couldn't get a shot on goal.

Barcelona, in its first season without Lionel Messi in nearly two decades, became in danger of elimination after opening with consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern and Benfica. It recovered thanks to two straight 1-0 wins over Dynamo.

Benfica's win over Barcelona in their first match was the first in six decades for the Portuguese side against the Catalan club.

Xavi was without Sergi Roberto because of an injury, while Sergino Dest, who also had been nursing an injury, started on the bench.

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