Barcelona held to 1-1 draw by steely Copenhagen
Madrid: Barcelona missed a chance to qualify for the last 16 when they were held to a 1-1 draw by a well-organised and aggressive FC Copenhagen in Champions League Group D on Tuesday.
Barca`s prolific Argentina forward Lionel Messi put the La Liga giants ahead in the 31st minute in the Danish capital, netting his fifth of the competition with a rare right-foot shot that Johan Wiland could only palm on to a post and in.
The hosts were level a minute later when Wiland`s opposite number Victor Valdes deflected a Jesper Gronkjaer cross into the path of Claudemir and the midfielder volleyed into the net with the ball taking a slight deviation off defender Eric Abidal.
Barca came agonisingly close to securing the win that would have sent them through when substitute Pedro hit the post with a curled effort from the corner of the penalty area in stoppage time.
They top the group on eight points and Copenhagen are second on seven with four of six matches played. Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, who drew 0-0 in Russia earlier on Tuesday, have three and two respectively.
"It was a very hard match -- they are an extremely physical side," Barca captain Carles Puyol said in an interview with Spanish television.
"They equalised very quickly which was unfortunate but I think we played a good match overall," he added.
"It was our objective to win and we went after the match from the start as you saw but now we have to look forward to the next game."
A motivated Copenhagen made a bright start at their chilly Parken Stadion arena and maintained their intensity throughout the match, preventing the 2009 winners from settling into their usual dominant passing game.
The dangerous Messi had several decent chances to add to his tally but the home players worked tirelessly to restrict his space around the centre of the pitch.
At the other end, Copenhagen striker Dame N`Doye caused problems for the Barca defence with his pace and strength despite sustaining a fearful-looking blow to the head in a clash with Valdes in the 11th minute.
Barca`s best early chance came in the 22nd minute when Andres Iniesta sent Spain team mate David Villa clear.
The striker`s angled shot almost beat Wiland but the keeper got his fingertips to the ball and managed to push it on to a post and away.
After the flurry of goal action, both teams had chances for a second before the break and Wiland blocked a Messi effort at the near post in added time shortly after Oscar Wendt had forced Valdes into a sharp save.
Both sides pressed hard for a winner in the second period but there were few clear chances and a draw was a fair result from a highly entertaining match.