Sports

Barcelona fans, players, coach stay positive after CL exit

Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks up during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks up during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID — There were no boos or jeers at the Camp Nou after Barcelona's elimination to Juventus in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Instead, the crowd of more than 96,000 chanted loudly in appreciation for the team's effort in trying to overturn a 3-0 first-leg loss.

Players and coach Luis Enrique also had more praise than criticism after Wednesday's 0-0 draw kept Barcelona from reaching the semifinals.

"We leave disappointed with the result but I have very little to criticize," Luis Enrique said. "We fought until the end. We gave everything we had."

Luis Enrique blamed the team's elimination on the lacklustre performance in the first half of the match in Italy, when Barcelona was outplayed and conceded two goals that left Juventus in control.

"We had a very poor first half in Turin and that was very costly," Luis Enrique said. "I'll keep remembering that first half at Juventus Stadium. That kept us from continuing in the Champions League."

Juventus added another goal in the second half in Italy to leave Barcelona in what proved to be an impossible position.

But fans were still hopeful of a comeback after they saw Barcelona overturn a 4-0 first-leg loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16, winning 6-1 at the Camp Nou with three goals after the 87th minute.

The crowd of 96,290 that packed the Camp Nou was behind the team from the start and didn't stop even after the final whistle.

"Very few times I've seen the Camp Nou like this after a loss," defender Gerard Pique said. "It makes me proud. It was a tough defeat but it needs to be noted that the fans finished the game chanting like that."

Barcelona couldn't produce another historic comeback, thanks to Juventus' stout defence and the poor finishing of its attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

"We created a lot of chances but couldn't get the shots on target," said Luis Enrique, who made his final Champions League appearance with Barcelona before leaving the club at the end of the season. "It would have been fair if we had won tonight (Wednesday), but Juventus deserved to advance."

Barcelona had defeated the Italian champion in the 2015 final to win its fifth European title.

The Catalan club is still fighting for the title in the Spanish league and in the Copa del Rey this season.

It has a decisive league game against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday, when it can erase the rival's three-point lead entering the final rounds. It will play the Copa final against Alaves in May.

"It's a difficult moment but we have to stand up and keep working," Suarez said.

Barcelona will be without the suspended Neymar against Madrid at the Bernabeu, where it has won two of the last three games against Madrid, including 4-0 last season.

Neymar, who led Barcelona with two goals and two assists in the comeback against PSG, was in tears after the game against Juventus. He was consoled by former teammate and fellow Brazilian Dani Alves, who now plays for Juventus.

"I have some mixed feelings," said Alves, who played for Barcelona from 2008-16. "It's an odd sensation to see my friends sad like that. It hurts, but it's part of the profession."

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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