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Barca stutter at Stuttgart

sports Updated: Feb 25, 2010 00:58 IST

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal gave Barcelona a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart in the round-of-16 match in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The defending champions fell behind in the 25th minute of the opening leg to Stuttgart striker Cacau’s goal amid strong pressure from the hosts.

Ibrahimovic equalised in the 52nd minute, tapping in from close range after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had saved his first attempt.

Stuttgart outplayed Barcelona in the first half but the visitors came back strongly after the break.

“They had the possession, we had the chances,” Stuttgart coach Christian Gross said.

Ibrahimovic and midfielder Xavi Hernandez were included in starting lineup despite being injured. Cacau, coming off a four-goal performance in the Bundesliga in Stuttgart’s 5-1 win over FC Cologne, mistimed a shot early but soon found the target. He rose over Barca defender Carles Puyol at the far post to head Timo Gebhart’s cross into the roof of the net. Cacau and Stuttgart midfielder Sami Khedira then wasted another chance, both hesitated too long to allow Puyol to make a sliding clearance.

Stuttgart kept up the tempo for Cacau to break down the left flank, but his shot was stopped by goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Barca finally threatened in the 40th minute when Lionel Messi shot from 20 yards. Stuttgart replied quickly with Valdes foiling striker Pavel Pogrebnyak soon after.

Stuttgart pulled back somewhat in the second half and Barcelona used the space to equalize. Defender Gerard Pique headed down a long ball to Ibrahimovic, whose first attempt was blocked by Lehmann. The striker put the rebound back into the net.