Monday, February 27, 2006

Samuel Eto'o taunted in Barcelona's victory

Racism is in the headlines again. Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o threatened to leave the field in the 77th minute when he received racist taunts from the crowd, but was persuaded to remain by Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard and finish off the club's 2-0 victory at Zaragoza on Saturday.

The three-time African player of the year could be seen saying ''No more,'' and was encouraged by teammates to remain. Eto'o also was taunted by Zaragoza supporters at La Romareda stadium a year ago, when the striker responded by mimicking a monkey.

Indeed, the striker's actions follow those of Ivory Coast's Marc Zoro, who threatened to leave the field during Messina's Italian league game with Inter Milan last November. Saturday's incident likely will intensify recent calls for football authorities to impose harsher sanctions against clubs whose fans racially taunt opposing teams' players.

We can say, though, that Barcelona took the lead three minutes later when Ronaldinho converted a penalty, awarded after Albert Celades was called for hand ball that prevented a goal by Edmilson. Celades was ejected.

Substitute Henrik Larsson added the second goal two minutes later when he clipped home a low cross from the right by Eto'o.

Barcelona's victory in Rijkaard's 100th league game at the helm of the club gave it 58 points and extended its lead in the standings to nine points.

Barcelona's entered the game coming off Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win at Chelsea. It appeared cautious against Zaragoza, which eliminated it from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals last month and ended its 18-game winning streak with a 4-2 win in the first leg.

In fact, Zaragoza came closest in the 29th minute of a tense first half when goalkeeper Victor Valdes tipped tipped a fierce shot by striker Ewerthon over the bar. Barcelona's only reply came 14 minutes later when Thiago Motta put a shot just wide.

Barcelona substitute Mark van Bommel fired just over the bar in the 61st as the game remained tight after halftime.

Is important to notice that Zaragoza, which has advanced to the Copa del Rey final after also eliminating Madrid, suffered its first defeat in five league games.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Barcelona beats Chelsea 2-1

FC Barcelona came from a goal down against ten-man Chelsea to earn a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in another controversial UEFA Champions League meeting between the two sides.

The major talking point this time came in the 37th minute when Asier Del Horno was strangely sent off after clashing with Lionel Messi in a decision that was amazingly harsh to say the really least.

In fact, Jose Mourinho's men still managed to go ahead after 59 minutes when Thiago Motta diverted the ball into his own net after a mix-up with keeper Victor Valdes from a Frank Lampard free kick.

Barca replied in kind with John Terry heading into his own net from Ronaldinho's free kick levelling the clash up after 71 minutes, before the Spanish champions started to put on the pressure.

The Premiership champions were forced into some desperate defending, but they can not hold out and Samuel Eto'o headed Frank Rijkaard's men in front ten minutes from time ensuring they had a 2-1 lead to take back to Camp Nou in the second leg.

It's important to notice that the match started as was expected, with Barcelona enjoying the majority of the possession and attempting to get to grips with the Stamford Bridge playing surface.

In fact, the visitors did look uncomfortable in defending crosses though, and when Carles Puyol failed to deal with a corner, Eidur Gudjohnsen was able to put a dangerous ball back across the face of goal, but there was no-one there in a blue shirt to take advantage.

Ronaldinho looked to be winding up for a first time shot on 19 minutes when arriving into the box, but he tried to take a touch too many and lost the opportunity. The Brazilian did manage a shot in on goal after half an hour when he arrived on to Oleguer's cut back from the right, but his low effort was kept out by a smart save from Petr Cech.

Yet another controversial moment between the two sides then popped up in the 37th minute, when Del Horno was shown a straight red card. The Spaniard came in to tackle Messi, but both men seemed to jump out of the challenge and collided in mid-air before both tumbled to the floor to perform theatrical rolls along the turf.

Norwegian referee Terge Hauge had a long time to think over his decision, but no-one in the ground can have been expecting the red card that emerged from his pocket for the Chelsea left back.

Despite being down to ten men, Chelsea started the second half brightly and, after Arjen Robben had flashed a shot wide, they took a surprise lead on 59 minutes courtesy of the unlucky Motta.

Lampard fired in a superb free kick from the left which neither Motta nor keeper Valdes can deal with, and the Barca midfielder saw the ball cannon off his thigh and into the net.

Lampard nearly repeated the dose with another free kick that flashed just wide of the near post, while substitute Henrik Larsson wasted a free header for Barca just minutes after coming off the bench.

It's important to notice that Barca did get their equaliser after 72 minutes, and it was another own goal with Blues skipper Terry the unlucky man this time as he flicked Ronaldinho's free kick over Cech and into his own net.

That sparked a furious last 15 minutes, with Barca carving out a number of glorious opportunities, firstly with the impressive Messi cutting in from the right before hitting a superb curler against the bar with Cech well beaten.

Ronaldinho was finally getting into the match and his glorious pass sent Larsson in on goal. The Swede dinked the ball over Cech but Terry had raced back to clear the danger from under the shadow of the bar.

Ricardo Carvalho then had some last-ditch defending to do of his own to block Messi's shot after more great vision from Ronaldinho.

Terry was again the hero as he cleared off the line for a second time from Ronaldinho's goalbound shot, but he looked fortunate not to concede a penalty when he clattered into the back of Messi after his high clearance, while he even handled the ball as he fell, but nothing was given.

In fact, Didier Drogba wasted a golden opportunity on the break when being sent through on goal, as he took a touch too many when bearing down on goal and was too close to Valdes when the keeper saved his effort.

Barca sprung out from the resulting corner, and Ronaldinho again showed great vision to find Larsson down the left, who in turn laid the ball back for Rafael Marquez.

The Mexican curled in a great ball left footed and Eto'o rose at the far post to head Barca 2-1 in front with ten minutes left to play.

Chelsea held out for the closing minutes and the match ended in a 2-1 victory for the Spanish champions to take back to Camp Nou for the second leg.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Barcelona want revenge against Chelsea

FC Barcelona players are aware that the match against Chelsea will be the chance to revenge the loss in the last Champions League edition. So everybody hopes Ronaldinho and his teammates will get the victory on Wednesday.

Chelsea will have John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech back after they missed the FA Cup clash with Colchester.

Asier del Horno also returns but William Gallas (hamstring) and Claude Makelele (knee) are doubts. Michael Essien is suspended for both legs.

Barcelona may start with Mark van Bommel and Thiago Motta in midfield and leave Lionel Messi on the bench.

Edmilson and Deco are expected to complete the four-man midfield but winger Ludovic Giuly is injured.

Line ups:

Chelsea: Cech, Gallas, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno, Gudjohnsen, Lampard, Makelele, Geremi), Robben, Crespo, Cole, Duff

Barcelona: Valdes, Belletti, Oleguer, Puyol, Marquez, Silvinho, Van Bronckhorst, Van Bommel, Motta, Messi, Edmilson, Deco, Ronaldinho, Eto'o

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Without Deco and Ronaldinho

Barcelona FC must play without playmakers Deco and Ronaldinho when they face streaking chasers Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday, but defender Carlos Puyol believes the stand-ins can do the business.

Deco faces a late fitness test due to a nagging leg knock, while the Brazilian star saw his ban appeal rejected on Friday.

“The doctors will have to see how (Deco’s) leg is and see how he feels before deciding whether to allow him to play,” rerpoted Puyol.

He added “We thought that (Ronaldinho) may be able to play, but now we will have to do without him”.

“We have prepared for the match thinking that he will not be there, and if he was then able that would have been great.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Winning run ended with loss against Atletico Madrid

In a surprising result, Atletico Madrid lived up to their reputation and Barcelona's leader-less team ended the Spanish champions' 14-match winning run in the league. The Madrid club got a categoric 3-1 victory at the Nou Camp.

The goals were scored by spanish striker Fernando Torres twice and Maxi Rodriguez.

Among the main stars Barcelona missed in their squad were Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o. With the defeat, Barca failed to reach the record number of 15 straight league wins set by Real Madrid in the 1960-61 season.

"This wasn't our day. We were below par," Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard said afterwards.

"We must react and rediscover the form we've shown up to now."

Indeed, Atletico captain Torres shot home in the 33rd minute after a cross by midfielder Ariel Ibagaza led to a mix-up between "blaugranas" defenders Oleguer Presas and Gabri.

In the end, Martin Petrov created the visitors' second goal in the 47th minute.