Bayer Leverkusen battered a much changed Barcelona side, but couldn’t find a winner that would have guaranteed their progress into the Champions League Last 16.
In the end, they drew 1-1, which didn’t affect Barcelona who had already won the group, but meant Leverkusen finished 3rd in Group A behind Roma – who pipped them into 2nd.
Lionel Messi gave the visitors a lead, after Ivan Rakitic played him through quite beautifully on goal. Rakitic and Messi were the only two usual starters in the original XI, and it was their combination all evening which created the hosting Germans the most trouble.
Before that though, the excellent Hakhan Calhanoglu had two wonderful free-kicks saved by Marc Andre-ter Stegen, who aside from Messi, was probably Barcelona’s best player.
Despite going behind, Leverkusen continued to press, with Kevin Kampl causing big problems down the left. And it got its reward, with Javier Hernandez, the Bundesliga Player of the Month for November, equalising before the half-time whistle.
The Mexican, who’d surely get in Manchester United’s team right now, found the top left corner despite being unbalanced and on his wrong foot.
From this point onwards, Barcelona were only a threat on the break as Luis Enrique decided to blood more youngsters and sit deep.
Sadly for the hosts though, they couldn’t find a breakthrough, and substitute Steffan Kiessling missed a good chance late on. If he’d have got his head up, he’d have found Hernandez next to him.
With injury time approaching, Christoph Kramer had an opportunity in the six yard box, but the feisty Sergi Samper intercepted and cleared Barca’s lines. Then, Hernandez thought he’d won them the game, but the keeper stuck out a wonderful left hand to defy Leverkusen once again.
Enrique will be pleased he rested most his best players for the weekend and got a closer look at some of his talented youngsters. None were exceptional though, and of the less experienced players, Samper was the best.