Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has demanded his side improve if they want to retain their Champions League title after being held to a 1-1 draw by Germany’s Stuttgart in the last 16 clash.
“We had to fight, it was a hard game,” Guardiola said after Tuesday night’s match at Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena.
“In the second half we were able to free ourselves up and it was a good result. But if we want to go for the title in this competition, we are going to have to work hard and get better.”
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scorer of Barca’s crucial second-half equaliser, agreed that it was a hard game, but predicted an improved performance in the second leg at their Camp Nou fortress on March 17.
“Stuttgart is a good team, they showed that today,” he said.
“We next play at home, we are good at home and I think it will be a different game.”
Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who was famously sent off in Arsenal’s ill-fated 2006 Champions League final against Barca, said there might be an upset.
‘We have to get a result in Barcelona’
“Maybe we’ll score a goal. And then they will have to come back, and then it will be a hectic English style game. That would be nice,” the former Germany star said.
But Stuttgart’s coach Christian Gross, who has turned his side’s fortunes around after taking over from the sacked Markus Babbel in December, was under no illusions.
“Now we have to go and get a result in Barcelona. We can’t be too optimistic,” he said.
The German side gave all they had on Tuesday night, particularly in a high-tempo first half, but they managed to convert only one of their many chances when Brazilian-born striker Cacau struck in the 25th minute.
Stuttgart’s goal came when a perfectly delivered cross from Timo Gebhart found Cacau on the far post, fresh from scoring four
The tide turned as Barca’s class came through in the second half when Stuttgart began to tire. Swedish striker Ibrahimovic broke Stuttgart’s resistance on 52 minutes, equalising by slotting the ball underneath Lehmann at close range.
Bordeax gain advantage
In Tuesday’s other Champions League match, Bordeaux took a big step towards the quarterfinals after beating Greek champions Olympiakos 1-0.
“We’re happy to score away from home, perhaps we could have scored a second but at least we got the victory,” Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said after the game.
“There are only a handful of clubs that have the experience of playing in the Champions League quarter-finals. Experience comes by playing matches,” he added.
His Olympiakos counterpart Bozidar Bandovic thought that his side had been unlucky not to finish at least on level terms.
“We played well, creating a lot of chances,” said Bandovic, who has stabilised the club since Brazilian playing great Zico became their second coaching casualty of the season. — AFP