Leverkusen - Bayer Leverkusen bowed out of
the Champions League on Wednesday despite holding a weakened Barcelona side,
led by goal-scorer Lionel Messi, to a 1-1 draw.
The Argentinian superstar gave Barca the
lead at the BayArena with a trademark early goal which was cancelled out by
Javier Hernandez's 14th for Leverkusen in all competitions this season.
With Roma drawing 0-0 at home to BATE
Borisov, Leverkusen had to beat Barcelona to progress but the Germans will
instead find themselves in the Europa League come February.
"I can't believe that we didn't win,
I'm very disappointed, and the fact that Roma didn't beat BATE makes it a
tragedy," said Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt.
"We had the chances, we just didn't
The Spaniards went through to the knock-out
stages, for the 12th year in succession, as Group E winners, ahead of Roma.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique started just
four of the side which beat Juventus 3-1 in last season's final in Berlin -
goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba and captain Messi.
Cameroon teenager Wilfrid Kaptoum made his
Champions League debut and midfielder Sergi Samper made only his third
appearance at this level in an experimental side.
First-choice Spain internationals Andres
Iniesta and Gerard Pique were left in Barcelona while Dani Alves was suspended.
Brazil superstar Neymar injured his groin
in training on Tuesday and Luis Suarez spent the game on the bench.
The team selection was understandable as
Barcelona have a busy spell coming up with the Catalans playing a Club World
Cup semi-final in Japan on December 17.
"I wanted to give the players who have
played the most this season a rest and I saw some good signs against a team
which really had to win," said Enrique.
"This game was a litmus test to see
how we'd cope. A few of our young players did well in the Champions League
"We'd like to have won, but Bayer gave
their all and we didn't want to burden our players with qualification
Leverkusen failed in their bid to beat the
Spanish giants despite having 25 shots on goal compared to the Spaniards' six.
This was their seventh straight defeat to
Barca, who took the lead when Rakitic's through ball caught the defence napping
and gave Messi a one-on-one with Bernd Leno.
Barca's superstar calmly rounded the
Leverkusen goalkeeper and slotted home with a trademark finish on 20 minutes.
Having been unlucky to lose 2-1 at the Camp
Nou in September, Leverkusen did not panic at the BayArena and drew level when
Hernandez claimed his 12th goal in Leverkusen's last 11 games.
Swiss winger Admir Mehmedi put in a low
cross, which Hakan Calhanoglu left for the Mexican striker and Hernandez
crashed his shot past Ter Stegen with his left foot on 24 minutes.
It was 1-1 at the break, but Calhanoglu
missed a golden chance in the opening minutes of the second-half to put the
Hernandez lobbed pass put him one-on-one
with Ter Stegen, but Calhanoglu fired across the face of the Barca goal.
With an hour gone, Karim Bellarabi
squandered a half-chance when he fired at Ter Stegen after getting in behind
With ten minutes left another deft through
ball from Rakitic released Sergio Ramirez for a rare Barcelona attack, but the
Spain Under-21 winger's cross was pounced on by Leno as it finished level.