FC Barcelona made it two UEFA Champions League wins from two games after edging an exhilarating Group E encounter away to VfB Stuttgart thanks to goals from Carles Puyol and Lionel Messi .
Having eased to a 3-0 triumph against Olympique Lyonnais in their opening fixture, the Spanish side were expecting a sterner test in Germany and duly got it. Thierry Henry, Messi and Ronaldinho worked to great effect but could not find a breakthrough. Instead it was Puyol, a seventh-minute replacement for the injured Rafael Márquez, who fired in eight minutes after half-time when Raphael Schäfer could only parry a Ronaldinho header into his path following a corner. The centre-back did not celebrate for long, however, as he limped off midway through the second period, before Messi made it 2-0.
The only surprise in the end was that there were only two goals. The standard was set after just five minutes when Deco rattled the upright, applying a sweet strike to Messi's intelligent pass. It was the first of a breathtaking 26 first-half shots and many of the initial ones came from Barcelona as their attacking triumvirate clicked; second guessing every run and finding one another with unerring accuracy.
Messi was twice denied by the excellent Schäfer after being sent clear first by Henry then by Ronaldinho, yet better was to come for the neutrals as midway through the half the three amigos almost fashioned a memorable goal. Messi won possession and flicked the ball to Ronaldinho who dextrously scooped it over a stagnant back line and into the path of Henry. The Frenchman hit it on the volley, but Schäfer again came to the home team's rescue.
A goal appeared to be only a matter of time – though it could easily have come for the Bundesliga title-holders. On 33 minutes the lively Arthur Boka advanced down the right and delivered a brilliant deep cross to the head of Mario Gómez. The German international met it with a powerful effort that Víctor Valdés tipped on to the bar before clawing away the rebound as Lilian Thuram and Puyol struggled to deal with his towering presence. It released the shackles and Stuttgart should have gone in for half-time 1-0 up: Gómez supplied a low cross to Alexander Farnerud at the far post, yet with the goal at his mercy the midfielder contrived to pop the ball up to Valdés.
Farnerud held his head in his hands, and how he must have wished he could do the same when Puyol broke the deadlock after the restart. Stuttgart fought back, their hopes raised when Puyol limped off on 64 minutes to be replaced by Sylvinho as Eric Abidal moved into central defence. Three minutes later Messi doubled the advantage, squeezing the ball between Schäfer and Roberto Hilbert following Henry's selfless cut-back. From then on, it was not a case of whether Barcelona would win but by how many and only a last-gasp clearance from Fernando Meira, which frustrated Messi, kept the scoreline down to two. Stuttgart, who had lost at Rangers FC on Matchday 1, now face a big task to go through.
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