FC Barcelona produced another commanding performance at Camp Nou as they secured first place in UEFA Champions League Group C and left Werder Bremen needing to defeat Panathinaikos FC in their final match to have any hope of progressing to the knockout stages.
Gabri García gave the Spanish champions an early advantage and, although Tim Borowski levelled from the penalty spot, the outstanding Ronaldinho quickly restored Barcelona's lead with a long-range free-kick. The win was wrapped up 19 minutes from time by Henrik Larsson from another astute Ronaldinho pass, meaning the Brazilian had had a hand in all three of his team's goals.
Frank Rijkaard said beforehand that there were several members of his squad who deserved a chance to prove themselves and one player making a rare start, Larsson, could have made an impact inside the opening seconds when Ronaldinho picked out the Swedish striker for a lofted effort that drifted agonisingly wide of Andreas Reinke's right-hand post. Ludovic Giuly was released down the right moments later as Barça flew forward again, but the Frenchman could only slice wide from an angle.
Bremen hinted at their threat for the first time in the 13th minute as Torsten Frings muscled his way forward before warming Víctor Valdés's gloves from long range, but a minute later the hosts were in front. Another fringe player, Gabri, justified his inclusion by controlling another long defence-splitting pass from Ronaldinho on his chest before rolling it into the far corner of the net for his first goal since November 2003.
That strike did not stop the Bundesliga side pressing forward and they earned their reward for some incisive play in the 22nd minute as Johan Micoud edged into the area. As the Frenchman lined up a shot he was brought down by Oleguer Presas and Borowski coolly slotted in the resulting spot-kick. Rijkaard had predicted prior to kick-off that there would be plenty of goals and his words proved perceptive as Barça regained the initiative four minutes after conceding.
The home team were awarded a free-kick on the left of the penalty area and Ronaldinho - the undisputed star of the weekend win at Real Madrid CF - earned himself more headlines as he curled the ball inside Reinke's near post as the visiting goalkeeper stood motionless. The Blaugrana held on to their advantage until half-time, although the game remained finely balanced as both sides enjoyed 50 per cent of the possession in the opening period.
The Bundesliga outfit started the second half brightly and went forward in numbers in search of a second equaliser. Miroslav Klose had the first opportunity for Bremen as he met a Frings centre, but clashed heads with Rafael Márquez in the process and had to be substituted immediately with blood pouring from his cheek. At the other end Ronaldinho continued to orchestrate Barça's best moves, creating chances for both Oleguer and Márquez.
Larsson on target
The result was put beyond doubt in the 71st minute when Larsson added Barça's third. Ronaldinho, outstanding throughout, once again carved open the Bremen defence with an accurate pass and the Swede took one touch before clipping past the approaching Reinke. The away team refused to lie down despite the two-goal deficit as Nelson Valdez twice broke clear down the right only to be denied by Valdés, and Naldo also went close from distance, but the hosts had long since sealed the win and first place in the table.