Lionel Messi returned from injury to make an innocuous first appearance of the season as Barcelona escaped with a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener on Tuesday (September 17).
Messi, who has missed the start of the season with a calf injury, came off the bench in a game which Barcelona were lucky not to lose after Dortmund captain Marco Reus missed a penalty and several chances in the second half.
“We played brilliantly in the second half, and it feels a bit like we have lost two points,” Dortmund defender Mats Hummels told Sky.
Reus said he felt “rubbish” after his missed penalty and insisted that Dortmund should have won the game.
“We had four or five chances, and if we had taken one of them, we would have won,” he told Sky.
“We said after the draw that we wanted to qualify for the knockout stages. If we continue to play like we did today then there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Lucien Favre’s side delivered on their pre-match promise to play fearlessly against five-time European champions Barcelona, probing the visitors from the wings and repeatedly finding gaps in the backline.
Both sides had chances in a game of cat and mouse in the first half, but it was Dortmund who looked the more likely to score.
Reus was denied at point-blank range by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jadon Sancho fired the ball over the crossbar shortly before half-time.
The hosts continued to turn the screw after the break, and were rewarded with a penalty when Nelson Semedo tripped Sancho in the box. Yet Ter Stegen denied countryman Reus again from 12 yards, diving low to his left to beat away his Germany teammates spot-kick.
The Barcelona keeper has now saved four of the six penalties he has faced in the Champions League, and was called upon to stop Reus yet again later in the half as Dortmund continued to dominate. “Marco played really well today, and really hurt us,” said Ter Stegen.
A luckless Reus also fired another good chance well over, while substitute Julian Brandt thundered a long-range effort against the crossbar.
Messi had begun his 30-minute cameo by that point, having come on around the hour mark for Ansu Fati, the 16-year-old prodigy freshly crowned as Barcelonas youngest ever Champions League debutant.
Yet the Argentine remained as blunt as his teammates in a Barcelona attack stifled by the impeccable defending of Dortmund elder statesmen Hummels and Axel Witsel.
He nonetheless had a chance to score the winner with the last kick of the game, but was denied by a desperate block from Thomas Delaney.
The draw leaves all four teams in Group F level on one point, after Inter Milan and Slavia Prague played out a 1-1 draw earlier on Tuesday (September 17).