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Striking talent sees Barça through

Published: Thursday 6 April 2006, 0.50CET
FC Barcelona 2-0 SL Benfica (agg: 2-0)
Goals from Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o ended the visitors' resistance and took Barça into the semis.
by Lucas Brown
from Camp Nou

Match statistics


Goals scored2
Attempts on target6
Attempts off target4
Fouls committed20
Yellow cards2
Red cards0


Published: Thursday 6 April 2006, 0.50CET

Striking talent sees Barça through

FC Barcelona 2-0 SL Benfica (agg: 2-0)
Goals from Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o ended the visitors' resistance and took Barça into the semis.

FC Barcelona booked a UEFA Champions League semi-final against AC Milan after goals in either half from Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o took the Catalan club past SL Benfica 2-0 on aggregate.

Doubling up
The Brazilian struck midway through the opening period before Eto'o scored a second three minutes from the end. Benfica arrived at Camp Nou looking to contain Barcelona's formidable attack, but twice went close to creating an upset before the Cameroonian's late intervention. Ronaldinho had wasted a golden opportunity to put the hosts ahead on just five minutes when his penalty was saved by Moretto after Petit had blocked Mark van Bommel's cross with his arm.

Penalty miss
The Brazilian made amends, however, when he steered his side in a 19th-minute lead. After Beto lost possession, Eto'o rounded Anderson and sent a low centre from the by-line across the face of goal for Ronaldinho, who side-footed home from nine metres. With Barça having gone three games without scoring from open play, the goal came as a relief to Frank Rijkaard's team. It was also reward for their exciting start to the match as they put sustained pressure on Moretto's goal from the first whistle.

Valdés intervention
By contrast, the visitors relied on their counterattacking tactics, yet were lacking numbers whenever a long pass was played upfield. Increasingly Simão, nominally a wide-right attacker, was forced to drop deep and leave Fabrizio Miccoli to plough a lone furrow up front. The Barcelona crowd demanded a second spot-kick when Luisão handled, but the referee awarded a free-kick outside the area which Ronaldinho fired into the side-netting. However, the extent of Barça's dominance was highlighted when Víctor Valdés touched the ball for the first time on 25 minutes, claiming a set-piece from Simão.

Moretto impresses
In a brief change of styles, Eto'o went close to doubling the home advantage as he received a long punt from Valdés before clipping the ball over the crossbar as the keeper advanced. Van Bommel then found Moretto in similar form to his first-leg heroics, the midfielder latching on to a Henrik Larsson pass only to draw a point-blank save from the custodian. For all that, though, Benfica might have gone into the interval on level terms. Their best moment of the first half came in its last minute when Anderson connected with a high ball into the box, but saw his effort fly centimetres wide of the woodwork.

Attacking switch
Rijkaard then shuffled his pack, with Eto'o going to the left of the three-man spearhead, while Larsson and Ronaldinho alternated between the centre and the right. The switch gave the visitors different problems, but the pressure rarely relented as the second period unfolded. Nonetheless, Benfica finally caught Barça on the break on the hour when Miccoli escaped down the right before clipping the ball over three defenders for Simão, homing in on the penalty spot, to slide his shot wide with only Valdés to beat.

Home comfort
With Carles Puyol restored to its heart, the Barcelona back line had looked assured, with the long, searching balls forward by the Portuguese side bearing little fruit. Miccoli did register two shots on goal, the first from long range Valdés claimed comfortably, while the second was off target. Valdés was rather more troubled by substitute Georgios Karagounis's strike from distance in the closing stages, which he saw late and only just tipped clear.

Barça scare
Had his reaction come any later, Ronald Koeman's men could have been contemplating an away goals victory. That fright apart, however, the home team continued to carry the greater threat. Eto'o had already let fly an overhead kick from the edge of the area, before he finally put the tie beyond doubt. Ronaldinho's pass picked out Ludovic Giuly on the right and the Frenchman's clever lob found Eto'o who controlled before blasting past Moretto.

Last updated: 06/04/06 10.26CET