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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.
Leverkusen exit despite holding weakened Barca
12/09/2015
 
Bayer Leverkusen strike out of the Champions League after draw against Barcelona

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.


Despite the result, this was a game the Germans controlled as they peppered the Spaniards' goal.


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 as the Spaniards went through to the knock-out stages for the 12th year in succession.


With the defending champions already through 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 last June.


Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba and captain Messi were the quartet.


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 and the Catalans play their Club World Cup semi-final in Japan on December 17.


Despite Enrique's weakened line-up, 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 Leverkusen defense napping and gave Messi a one-on-one with Bernd Leno.


Barca's superstar calmly rounded Leverkusen's 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 hosts ahead.


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 the defence.


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.

Source: Ryland James AFP
 
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