Thierry Henry was full of praise for VfB Stuttgart after Armin Veh's tireless charges made FC Barcelona work hard for their 2-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Loss of impetus
Much of the pre-match talk had been of the contrasting fortunes of the two sides. The German champions have struggled to find the form that saw them claim their first title for 15 years in May, while Barça have found their groove in recent weeks. The visitors looked set for an easy night as Henry, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi linked up to magical effect in the opening stages, but even then the French member of the trio insisted it was hard going. "It might have looked easy at times from high up in the stands, but it wasn't that easy at all," said the 30-year-old. "We played very well in the first 20 or 30 minutes but we missed a few chances we should have scored then we sat back a bit – I'm not sure why."
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard will certainly be keen to find out why as it almost proved a fatal mistake when Stuttgart began to show why they are unbeaten at home in the Bundesliga in over a year. Alexander Farnerud missed from point-blank range but it was Mario Gómez, the son of a Real Madrid CF supporter, who went closest, his powerful first-half header tipped against the crossbar by Víctor Valdés. "Stuttgart had their chances," Henry continued. "It was a great effort by Gómez and it's a shame for them it didn't go in as they would have gone in for half-time 1-0 up. Instead it was 0-0 and the second half went our way."
Given Barcelona's array of attacking talent it was surprisingly Carles Puyol who broke the deadlock eight minutes after half-time before Messi brought some much-needed breathing space midway through the second period, though still Stuttgart looked to hit back. "It wasn't an easy match at all and we had to work really hard, right until the end," Henry conceded, adding a ray of hope for the German side whose next fixture sees them take on the other Group E side without a point, Olympique Lyonnais. "Stuttgart didn't play like a side that had no points and they had a few chances, but just could not take them. They will be a difficult team [for Lyon] to face."
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