No miracle this time for Barca

Barcelona forward Neymar being comforted by Juventus defender Dani Alves, his Brazilian compatriot, after the Italian side eliminated the Spanish giants 3-0 on aggregate when their quarter-final second leg ended goal-less at the Camp Nou stadium. Juv
Barcelona forward Neymar being comforted by Juventus defender Dani Alves, his Brazilian compatriot, after the Italian side eliminated the Spanish giants 3-0 on aggregate when their quarter-final second leg ended goal-less at the Camp Nou stadium. Juve, who last won the Champions League in 1996, are gunning for their third European Cup.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Disciplined Juve fend them off at Camp Nou as they turn to Clasico to lift hopes

BARCELONA • There was to be no Comeback Part II, no repetition of that night against Paris Saint-Germain, no sign of the "madness" that Luis Enrique had hoped for.

As the final seconds slipped away on Wednesday night, flags waved all around Camp Nou and the Barcelona fans sang.

There was no recrimination and they had appreciated the effort, witnessing their team rack up 17 shots, but it felt like the end of an era and they had long known that it was a lost cause: ultimately, the quarter-final had been decided in the opening 22 minutes in Turin.

"I will remember that first half for ever and ever," Enrique said.

This was his last Champions League game as Barcelona manager and the first time he had seen them fail to win at Camp Nou, meaning Juventus will be in the semi-finals instead.

THIS COULD BE OUR YEAR

The self-belief of the team has grown a lot. We are desperate to go as far as we can and achieve something extraordinary.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI, Juventus manager, on his side's growing maturity in continental competition in the last few years.

The Italian club had deserved it, Enrique conceded after they went through 3-0 on aggregate with a 0-0 draw in Barcelona.

The Barca manager had talked about making their opponents nervous, but that never happened.

"Psychologically, we never wavered," Massimiliano Allegri, the Juventus manager, said and therein lay one huge difference with PSG.

Midfielder Andres Iniesta had spoken about the need to take the game into a place where the comeback at least became possible, but Barcelona never got there. Juventus simply would not let them.

Barca forward Neymar left in tears, embraced by the Spanish club's former player Dani Alves, who then joined his Juve team-mates in saluting their supporters.

It is 21 years since Juventus won the Champions League and they must be considered contenders.

"We're in the semi-final but it's not over yet," Allegri said.

His side is one of real assurance that felt in control and has variety: in Barcelona they defended, at home they had attacked.

Juve are in the last four for the second time in three years under Allegri and he believes they are better equipped to win the elite European club tournament for a third time than when they lost to Barca in the final two years ago.

"The self-belief of the team has grown a lot," he said Allegri. "We are desperate to go as far as we can and achieve something extraordinary."

Enrique insisted that his final season in charge of Barca can still end in glory. His side travel to face eternal rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico on Sunday realistically needing to win to maintain their hopes of a third straight La Liga title.

Barca trail Real by three points in the standings having played one game more.

"Barca have a team built to compete, to win trophies and to face every challenge," said Enrique. "It is clear we are very hurt to be eliminated from a competition that excites us so much, but now comes a key game against the leaders and a direct rival. We have to get ready to compete and I am sure we will do that."

Barca will be without Neymar at the Bernabeu through suspension and they will need Lionel Messi back in top form, as the Argentinian star was off target with the only two clear chances the hosts created on Wednesday.

"We are not in our best moment, but we can win," said defender Gerard Pique.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'No miracle this time for Barca'. Print Edition | Subscribe