FC Barcelona gave PFC Levski Sofia a lesson in what the UEFA Champions League is all about as the holders brushed aside the debutants at Camp Nou to wrest early control of the Group A table.
An away game against last season's kings of Europe was always going to provide the sternest of introductions for the Bulgarian title-holders, and so it proved as Barcelona established a two-goal half-time lead through Andrés Iniesta and Ludovic Giuly before wrapping the tie up after the break thanks to further strikes from captain Carles Puyol - his first at home in continental competition - Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho.
Stanimir Stoilov had vowed beforehand that Levski were not here merely to make up the numbers, although their early endeavour was undone on seven minutes when they fell behind to a trademark Barça goal. Ronaldinho was involved, skipping away from Zhivko Milanov before laying the ball into Eto'o who set up Iniesta to drill a low drive into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the box.
Despite conceding the first goal of the group stage, Levski looked reasonably assured pressing forward as they attempted to match the open passing play of the hosts, and their first opportunity of note ended with Stanislav Angelov warming the gloves of Víctor Valdés after deceiving Juliano Belletti. The heavens may have opened in the 26th minute, but the torrential downpour failed to put a dampener on Barcelona's attacking intent as Eto'o fired wide and Ronaldinho fizzed a shot straight at Georgi Petkov.
The goalkeeper could do little to prevent the Catalans doubling their advantage six minutes before the break when Giuly picked up an Eto'o pass, cut inside Igor Tomašić and stroked the ball in with his left foot. The 5,000 travelling supporters in the highest tier of the stadium continued to revel in the atmosphere, even as Frank Rijkaard's team made the game safe four minutes after the restart.
Ronaldinho was fouled on the corner of the area by Dimitar Telkiyski and the Brazilian's low strike from the resulting free-kick was fumbled by Petkov into the path of Puyol who took great delight in side-footing in. Barça's insatiable appetite conjured a fourth goal two minutes short of the hour as Eto'o ran at the Levski rearguard, side-stepped two defenders and calmly passed the ball into the net from just outside the box.
Georgi Ivanov blazed narrowly wide and Hristo Yovov drilled a long-distance free-kick over as Levski sought a consolation, while a crucial sliding tackle from Lilian Thuram prevented Angelov from registering Levski's first group-stage goal - a challenge typical of a command performance which earned the Frenchman a standing ovation when he was replaced by Oleguer Presas in the 72nd minute. Ronaldinho also received one in the final minute, curling in a wonderful fifth to cap a terrific opening-night display.
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