Athletic Bilbao ended Barcelona’s 10-game winning streak with a superb defensive performance in a scoreless draw Tuesday in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Although it was the first time Barcelona had failed to score a goal in 22 games, the hosts did extend their unbeaten run to 23 matches.
With star Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente out with a pulled muscle, Coach Joaquin Caparros deployed six midfielders and succeeded in smothering Barcelona’s attack in the first leg at Camp Nou stadium.
Lionel Messi and David Villa came on for Barcelona as early second-half substitutes but were unable to make an impact.
“It is a shame because we had been playing well,” said Pedro Rodriguez, whose team outscored its opponents 42-4 in the 10 victories. “They defended well. It was difficult to find spaces and we lacked precision in our shots. “
Heading into the Christmas break, Barcelona has 21 wins, 2 losses and 4 draws in all competitions and has outscored opponents 77-16.
Guardiola said his team had played many good matches in 2010, “but there are many intense months ahead with games against very strong rivals.”