Barcelona were unable to mount another second-leg comeback at the Camp Nou in the UEFA Champions League, as a 0-0 draw against an imperious Juventus side saw them eliminated 3-0 on aggregate at the quarter-final stage on Wednesday.
The visitors held firm in a frantic first period, preventing Barcelona from building impetus as they sought to overturn a three-goal deficit from the first leg. The Blaugrana continued to press forward after the break, although they were unable to breach the watertight Juventus defence, with Lionel Messi missing a couple of clear opportunities.
The Italian champions will face either Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid or AS Monaco in the semi-finals.
After their remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round—Barcelona won the second leg 6-1 after losing the first 4-0—the Camp Nou was abuzz with expectation at kick-off, per the club’s Twitter feed:
However, Juventus seemed a little more at ease on the big stage than the French champions, and as noted by Miguel Delaney of The Independent, they began with authority:
Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney
Juve already showing the assurance to have a proper go at Barca from the off… in the way that PSG just couldn’t.
4/19/2017, 6:53:13 PM
Barcelona did take control of the match midway through the first period, with Messi pulling the strings in typical fashion. The Blaugrana No. 10 also missed a fine chance to give his side the lead, dragging wide from inside the area.
But while the home side were looking menacing in possession, Juventus were so structured in defence and on the counter-attack, offering a persistent threat through the pace of Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado.
Gonzalo Higuain had a great opportunity to snaffle a crucial away goal, too, although he didn’t get enough on Miralem Pjanic’s excellent pass. Meanwhile, the Bianconeri passed another defensive milestone before the interval, per WhoScored.com:
Juventus: Have not conceded a goal in their last 8 hours of Champions League football #FCBJuve https://t.co/yUFBiu3BF3
4/19/2017, 7:27:10 PM
Before the half-time whistle, tempers did fray, with a yellow card for Neymar meaning he’ll miss Barcelona’s next Champions League game. Juventus would have been delighted with a job well done at the break.
In the second half, Cuadrado had a brilliant chance to end Barcelona’s hopes but fired wide from the corner of the penalty area. The Colombian then had another shot turned behind by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Barcelona continued to create half chances at the other end, although as the clock ticked past the hour mark, time was running out. As noted by Bleacher Report’s Gianni Verschueren, Juventus were looking indomitable at the back:
Gianni Verschueren @ReverschPass
Neymar just dribbled past about 48 Juventus players and still ran into Giorgio Chiellini. Italians, man #BarcaJuventus
4/19/2017, 7:49:41 PM
There was an uncharacteristic lapse from Gianluigi Buffon, though, as he dropped a cross with the penalty box packed. But, almost as uncharacteristically, Messi hooked over from close range. Sergi Roberto then fired narrowly wide from the edge of the box; hopes for those in red and blue were fading.
Juventus sensed that was the case, with centre-back Andrea Barzagli introduced in place of Dybala, as the visitors sat in and started to waste time with 15 minutes remaining.
MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images
Per beIN Sports’ Matteo Bonetti, the hosts were starting to get careless with their work in the final third at this juncture:
Matteo Bonetti @TheCalcioGuy
Don’t remember a game where Barcelona were so wasteful with their final touch, whether a shot or a pass
4/19/2017, 8:23:34 PM
As the game ambled into the final stages, Juve took over and should have scored on the counter-attack, when Sami Khedira wasted a brilliant opportunity. But eventually they had more than enough in the tank to see this one through.
Although there was hope among Barcelona players, staff and supporters ahead of this one, hauling themselves back into the tie against Juventus was always going to be a huge challenge. The momentum they built against PSG didn’t surface here, with the visitors so adept at taking the sting out of the game.
That savviness makes Juventus one of the favourites for glory in this competition. Not only can they contain and frustrate as they did on Wednesday, but they can cause opponents so many issues in the final third with the axis of Dybala and Higuain.
Having fallen at the final hurdle in 2015, this is a team with great potential to go one better.