Holders Barcelona ran out 2-0 winners over Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen in their Champions League clash here on Wednesday.
However, while goals from Andres Iniesta and David Villa maintained Barca’s unbeaten record in the group – they are level on seven points with AC Milan who were 2-0 winners over BATE Borisov – they were surprisingly ineffective in front of goal.
Iniesta broke the deadlock after an excellent move between him and Lionel Messi although it did not open the floodgates as Plzen battled hard at the back and rode their luck with Messi himself hitting the woodwork on two occasions.
David Villa added gloss to the result with a strike eight minutes from time.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted his side had not been as clinical as normal.
“It was a good game but not an exhibition of football from us,” he said.
“We played a difficult opponent and produced a solid performance although we were too slack at times leaving ourselves open on the counter-attack.
“It is never easy when the opposition is defending very deep but it was not just a case of the ball not going in, we were not clinical enough.”
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba was full of admiration for Barcelona.
“The individual quality of the Barcelona players and their performance I think was perfect and there is no other way to describe it,” he purred.
Guardiola has made it his objective to qualify as quickly as possible from the group stage and was true to his word that he would not be resting any of his attacking stars despite a packed fixture list.
For Plzen the Champions League has been a whole new experience after they won the Czech League for the first time and it has been a baptism of fire having been drawn in the same group as AC Milan and Barcelona.
It started ominously for Plzen as Pedro Rodriguez mis-kicked in front of goal and Dani Alves blazed over when both might have scored.
A delightful interchange between Iniesta and Messi led to Barcelona taking the lead after ten minutes.
Iniesta missed several weeks with a hamstring strain but looked back to his best with his instinctive passing and movement, although he did fade as the game wore on.
He and Messi cut their way through the Plzen defence before Iniesta lifted the ball over a defender and finished clinically.
Barcelona were dominating but the second goal escaped them. A move which spanned the length of the pitch saw Villa play in Messi but the Argentine’s clipped shot was parried by the keeper.
Pedro was a constant danger but he did not have his usual eye for a goal as he shot over with the goal gaping and then Messi spurned another good chance before hitting the post with a free-kick on the point of half time.
Chances came and went for Barcelona more often than not from the feet of Messi.
He wriggled past several challenges inside the box after 53 minutes but was denied by the keeper, and then hit the post after a sublime piece of skill saw him beat one man and then hurdle two more challenges.
Despite pressing tirelessly it seemed as though there were to be no more goals until the Catalan side finally found the back of the net again. Messi was stopped in his tracks in front of goal but the ball fell to Villa who slotted home.
Watch video highlights below:
Barcelona 1-0 Plzen (Iniesta)
Barcelona 2-0 Plzen (Villa)