Barcelona frustrated at Rubin Kazan

MOSCOW, Sept 29, 2010 (AFP) - Spanish giants Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Russian champions Rubin Kazan in their Champions League Group D encounter at Kazan on Wednesday.

Both goals came from the penalty spot, with Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa giving Rubin the lead in the first half and David Villa equalising on the hour mark.

The result leaves Barcelona on top of the group with four points from two matches, while Kazan have just one point, having lost 1-0 at FC Copenhagen in their opening match.

Panathinaikos, thrashed 5-1 by Barcelona in their first game, host Copenhagen later on Wednesday.

"We got a very important point tonight," said Villa.

"The penalty in the first half made life hard for us because they were playing well in defence.

"We missed a lot of chances and the Rubin goalkeeper played very well, but finally we managed to level. Rubin played well on the counter-attack, so we had to play very carefully in defence."

Spanish champions Barcelona started cautiously in Kazan, no doubt mindful of the shock 2-1 defeat Rubin inflicted on them at Camp Nou in the group phase last season.

It was Barca who created the first clear chance in the 12th minute, when Villa sent a razor-sharp pass into Rubin's box for Pedro Rodriguez, who lofted the ball against the crossbar from eight yards.

Barcelona had quickly settled into their house style, keeping the ball under control and probing the hosts' defence for frailties, with Rubin content to sit back and defend.

Villa threatened in the 26th minute, shooting across goal and wide on the half-volley after the ball fell to him following a corner.

The hosts replied with a series of counter-attacks, which ended with a foul by Daniel Alves on Vitaly Kaleshin in Barca's box.

Rubin skipper Noboa smashed home a powerful spot-kick to give the hosts a 30th-minute lead.

The visitors immediately pressed forward in search of an equaliser, with Pedro firing wide from 10 yards after receiving another pass from Villa shortly before the break.

After the interval Barcelona seized the initiative completely, pinning the hosts back but to no immediate avail, as Rubin defended stoutly.

But Pep Guardiola's side were handed an opportunity to level when Lasha Salukvadze bundled over Andres Iniesta in the area and Villa squeezed a precise penalty into the bottom-right corner.

Barca welcomed back Lionel Messi from injury and the second-half substitute saw a chance blocked by Rubin goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov in the 71st minute.

Rubin substitute Obafemi Martins almost snatched victory when he headed against a post late on, while Spanish World Cup winner Iniesta lifted a shot over the bar in injury time.

"I'm pleased with the result. We secured a very precious point tonight," said Rubin coach Kurban Berdyev.

"We played very organised football and tried to minimise the risks.

"I think that Barcelona have already reserved their place in the knockout stage. I think the battle between the three other clubs for for the remaining place is still ahead."

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