Defending champion Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw by Inter Milan to start their Champions League campaign, as the matchup between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o against their former teams fizzled out to a rain-soaked stalemate.
Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi had good chances to break the deadlock in the first half, but the rugged Inter defence stopped the Spaniards from building any attacking momentum in the second.
Inter came close twice in the second half, with Wesley Sneijder and substitute Dejan Stankovic narrowly missing the target with their efforts.
Barcelona started the Group F match the brighter of the two teams. He went on a dribbling run in the second minute past Lucio and Javier Zanetti, but goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved the shot.
In his first match back at the San Siro, Ibrahimovic’s first touch of the ball was greeted with a chorus of whistles from Inter’s fans but they dissipated as the match went on.
The Sweden forward had a great scoring chance in the seventh minute. Daniel Alves chipped over the defence to him, but Ibrahimovic hit his volley high and wide with only Cesar to beat.
A minute later, Messi’s header forcing Cesar to react quickly to the danger after Alves had crossed to the Argentine at the far post.
Neither team was able to take control of the match, with a number of promising moves breaking down as players drifted offside and passes failed to reach their intended target.
Diego Milito had Inter’s best chance in the 28th. Cesar punted down field and Barcelona’s defence failed to react, allowing the former Genoa striker to cut inside Gerard Pique to shoot, but goalkeeper Victor Valdes dived low to save the shot.
Barcelona came close to scoring twice more before halftime.
In the 41st, Xavi chipped the ball to Alves in the area. The Brazilian pulled it back to Seydou Keita, but the Malian hit a weak shot and Cesar scrambled to make the save.
Then, with one minute remaining in the half, Messi produced a typical run off the right wing, hit a powerful drive but again Cesar came to Inter’s rescue, acrobatically pushing the ball away for a corner.
Inter went close in the 47th when Eto’o rolled the ball across the edge of the area to Sneijder, whose shot went just wide of the post.
Barcelona continued to play its short passing game but was often crowded out by Inter’s defense. Inter’s Thiago Motta put Xavi under pressure in central midfield, with fullbacks Cristian Chivu and Maicon limiting Messi’s and Thierry Henry’s runs.
Even the introduction of Andres Iniesta failed to spark Barcelona, while neither Messi nor Xavi managed to exert a telling influence toward the end of the match.