Few expected Galatasaray to take anything out of their Europa League last-16 first leg away at Barcelona, but the Turkish side went to the Camp Nou and recorded a well-earned 0-0 draw.
Xavi Hernandez’s side came into this match on the back of four straight wins in all competitions and it was assumed that they would have a simple evening against Domenec Torrent’s charges, who are 12th in the Turkish Super Lig and lost 2-0 at Konyaspor last weekend.
Yet, it was a defensive masterclass by Galatasaray. Barcelona came firing out of the blocks and were looking to make life difficult for the visitors early on, but Marcao made his presence known, seemingly getting to every ball and making important block after important block.
Barcelona’s best chance of the first half came in the 27th minute, as Memphis Depay’s free-kick from 25 yards out forced a good save out of Inaki Pena, who is on loan at Galatasaray from the Catalan club.
Nine minutes later, it was the Turkish side who almost took a surprise lead. Kerem Akturkoglu was impressive on the left wing and, from one of Galatasaray’s counter-attacks, he was able to drift inside Sergino Dest and Frenkie de Jong before getting a shot away, but Eric Garcia threw his body in the way and it went behind for a corner.
Xavi was clearly not happy with what he saw in the first half as he made three changes at the break, with Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique coming on for Ferran Torres, Nico Gonzalez and Ronald Araujo.
Barcelona would continue to throw more bodies forward, but the excellent defence of Galatasaray continued to stand firm. As well as Marcao, full-backs Sacha Boey and Patrick van Aanholt really stood out.
Jordi Alba had the first clear chance to open the scoring in the second period, as he saw his volley in the 62nd minute go just wide of Inaki Pena’s post. Then, 13 minutes later, Barcelona hit the post.
Adama Traore showed quick feet on the right-hand side of the box before sending a cross into the middle, which was flicked on by Pedri and then acrobatically sent towards goal by Aubameyang, with De Jong making the last contact on the ball, but it came back out off the post.
Galatasaray briefly thought they had netted a surprise winner in the 78th minute as Van Aanholt’s ball in behind the Barcelona led to second-half substitute Bafetimbi Gomis firing past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but he was correctly adjudged to have been a yard offside.
The final minutes were nervy for Galatasaray, but they managed to hold on, which sets up a mouth-watering second leg at the Turk Telekom Arena next Thursday evening.