A second-string Barcelona side proved too strong for Rubin Kazan on Tuesday as the Russians fell 2-0 at the Nou Camp to miss out on a berth in the Champions League knockout phase.
Last season, Rubin, unbeaten in 15 in their domestic league, briefly caused a sensation with a 2-1 pool phase win at the Nou Camp. The return was a draw, as was this campaign’s opener in Russia — hence leaving the Catalan club winless in three previous meetings.
However, they put the record straight as they picked off their rivals with second-half goals from Andreu Fontas and Victor Vazquez to send Barcelona streaking on with 14 points while Danish side FC Copenhagen won 3-1 against Panathinaikos to claim second spot with ten.
Kazan’s hopes of a win to pinch second place from under the Danes’ noses looked as if they had received a boost when Barca coach Pep Guardiola sent out a virtual reserve side, resting David Villa as well as Xavi.
Xavi’s fellow FIFA Ballon d’Or hopefuls Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta started on the bench.
Even so, the game was an opportunity for fringe players such as Maxwell, Jonathan and Fontas to impress, while Jose Pinto made a rare start in goal in place of usual first choice Victor Valdes.
Two up-and-coming names — Bojan Krkic and Jeffren — had little opportunity to stake their claims, however, as both had to leave the action before the break to be replaced by Marc Bartra and Vazquez.
Kazan coach Kurban Berdyev had forecast that Barca would not change their fluent style even with so many top names out and yet it was the Russians who had the better of things in a tight first half.
However, after the restart, Barca’s young bucks turned on the style and Fontas broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half before Vazquez wrapped up the points eight minutes from time.
Defender Fontas was delighted to have the opportunity to shine on his competition debut.
“It was impossible to do better — and I get a goal into the bargain so I can’t be happier, though I was a bit nervous to start with,” he told Spanish television.
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FC Copenhagen became the first Danish club to reach the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday after they outclassed Greek side Panathinaikos 3-1.
Goals by Martin Vingard, a penalty by 33-year-old veteran Jesper Gronkjaer and an own goal by former Liverpool misfit Djibril Cisse eased the Danish side into the last 16. Cedric Kante grabbed a consolation goal in time added on.
Defeat saw the Greeks finish rock bottom of Group D with a paltry return of two goals and two points from their six matches.
Thankfully, the hosts never gave their Norwegian manager Stale Solbakken much cause for concern — the 42-year-old former international midfielder has had a pacemaker for the past decade after suffering a heart attack.
The hosts took a firm grip on the match and a place in the knockout stages in the 26th minute when, from outside the penalty area, Vingaard rifled home Christian Bolanos’s pass, giving visiting goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas no chance.
Tzorvas, Greece’s first choice ’keeper at the World Cup finals, proved equal to the task 10 minutes later when he got down smartly to save from Claudimir.
The visitors, who have had a catastrophic campaign scoring just once as their mix of international journeymen — such as Djibril Cisse and Sidney Govou — and local players have failed to sparkle, managed just one shot in the opening 45 minutes, right on the half-time whistle.
However, the shot by Stergos Marinos, a replacement for the reportedly Govou, was easily gathered by Johan Wiland.
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