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Benfica into Europa League after draw at Barca

Thursday, 6 December 2012 - 11:24am IST | Agency: Reuters
Benfica missed out on a place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they were held to a 0-0 draw by a weakened Barcelona to finish third behind Celtic in Group G on Wednesday.

Benfica missed out on a place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they were held to a 0-0 draw by a weakened Barcelona to finish third behind Celtic in Group G on Wednesday.

Celtic won 2-1 at home to Spartak Moscow to finish with 10 points, three behind already qualified Barca. Benfica had eight.

The visitors carved a number of openings in the first half but were profligate with their shooting. They ran out of ideas and steam, although they almost grabbed a dramatic goal in time added on.

Lionel Messi came on as a second-half substitute but failed to draw level with Gerd Mueller's calendar year record of 85 goals and ended up leaving the pitch on a stretcher after a collision with visiting keeper Artur at the end of the match. Barca coach Tito Vilanova rested regulars such as Victor Valdes, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in favour of a number of youth team players, and surprisingly left Messi on the bench.

Benfica forward Rodrigo fired wide of the post in a three-on-one chance with Jose Manuel Pinto after 12 minutes, as Barca lacked their usual fluidity and were pressed back. The chances came and went for Benfica and the home crowd's chants for Messi to come on were satisfied in the 58th minute, but he appeared to damage his knee and left the pitch in pain with five minutes to go. Benfica's Maxi Pereira blazed a shot over the bar in the fifth minute of time added on and with it went their chances of qualifying for the next round.


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