By Graham Hunter
Radomir Antic admitted he was "euphoric" about FC Barcelona's 3-0 Group A win against Internazionale FC - for the crushing style with which it was achieved as much as for the outright record of eleven consecutive UEFA Champions League victories which it signalled.
Saviola the key
Antic and Inter coach Héctor Cúper agreed the key to Barcelona's outstanding performance stemmed from the damage which the partnership of Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola achieved. Antic said: "
At the moment everything we touch seems to turn to gold and I am truly euphoric. The team was outstanding, but one player in particular did more than he was asked to do, won the ball back, scored a goal and made a goal - and that was Saviola."
Cúper was critical of his side, but remained upbeat. He said: "We did not hit our heights, we did not defend well and the partnership of Saviola and Kluivert dominated the game. I can't call this a disaster, not even a drama, because we have won two games in the group and only lost one.
"But now we have some problems. The injury which Iván Córdoba sustained is crucial. Marc Overmars was a constant danger to us and now, for sure, we will need to find another player to contain him next week but I don't have a magic recipe."
The match opened up with Saviola's early goal but hinged on a brilliantly rehearsed move in the 30th minute. Frank de Boer lost his marker at a corner, his free header found Kluivert and although the Dutch striker's shot was superbly saved by Francesco Toldo, Philip Cocu poked in the second goal. Midway through the second half, Saviola's run and cutback left Kluivert to score the goal he had promised Antic after last weekend's domestic victory against RCD Espanyol.
Advice pays off
"I told Saviola not to always look for a generous cutback to other players but to shoot when he was clear," explained Antic. "For the first goal he took that advice and opened up the game with that decision. Suddenly everything seems easy but I'll be the first guy on the training pitch on Wednesday morning.
"I feel great satisfaction also because today I truly felt like Barcelona's coach. If someone had said that in only about two weeks we could achieve this I would not have said definitely 'yes'. But when I talk about positive mentality it is results like this that I believe we can achieve.
Bit by bit the crowd are starting to see the team they want to see - a team which wears the shirt with pride."
Recoba sees red
The darkest moment of a thrilling match came when Alvaro Recoba stamped on Carlos Puyol and was sent off. Recoba had drifted in and out of the game but now misses next week's return against Barcelona in Milan. "That was a difficult match in which to stay calm," said Cúper. "But each player must retain his composure, especially a player like Recoba, and I don't think we were particularly intelligent in that moment. We have to solve this problem because we already have important players missing through injury and now this absence will be difficult to deal with."
Barcelona's players were jubilant but realistic after the victory which leaves them top of Group A with nine points. Thiago Motta said: "We haven't enjoyed ourselves with a match like that for a long, long time - but we still have our feet on the ground."
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