Valverde: We took a step forward despite draw

Ernesto Valverde praised Barcelona's effort despite being held by Olympiakos in the Champions League.

Ernesto Valverde praised Olympiakos for its well-oiled display on Tuesday night.   -  AP

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde felt his team took a "step forward," but he lamented its 0-0 draw with Olympiakos in the Champions League. The La Liga leader failed to score in a Champions League group-stage match for the first time since 2012 as it was held in Greece on Tuesday.

Despite the result, Barcelona retained a three-point lead atop Group D after Juventus drew with Sporting CP.

Valverde praised his players for their efforts despite not getting the result they wanted. "We were lacking a goal. We tried to get closer to their area on the basis of longer possession," he said. "But they did a great job in defence and tried to hit us on the counter-attack, spurred on by their fans. You could see what amazing people there are here. We wanted to secure qualification but we failed. It was still a step forward, but not the one we wanted. The players emptied their tanks out there."

Tough opponent

The clash marked a return to his former club for Valverde, who coached Olympiakos in two stints in 2008-09 and 2010-12.

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Despite being on the opposite side of the fanatical Olympiakos support, Valverde praised the fans. "The answer to everything is how well our opponents played. They stuck tight together as a unit. We were up against an opponent that did their job well from start to finish," he said.

"I always had this atmosphere in my favour and today it was against me. I know what the Champions League means to these fans because I've experienced it myself many times. It may have come as a surprise to people coming from Barcelona, even though everyone knows how intense Greek football support can be. It was extraordinary. Really nice."

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