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October 29, 2006

Barcelona and Ronaldinho came back to life

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With two goals scored by Ronaldinho, Barcelona finally got a great victory last night, boosting their confidence in the run-up to the visit of Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday. Indeed, the "Blaugrana" coach Frank Rikjaard blamed himself for his team’s defeats at Stamford Bridge and Real Madrid, but he also made it clear he expected a response from his players. They had Victor Valdes to thank for not falling behind within seconds. The goalkeeper was more switched on than his defence when Rosu crossed from the left and Calle got in a glancing header that Valdes saved in a gret style.

We must mention that Barça looked to Ronaldinho and Ludovic Giuly to provide options and width for their three-man midfield. Giuly, on the right, initially looked livelier than the Brazilian who took almost half an hour to make a meaningful contribution, converting a penalty shot after Eidur Gudjohnsen had his jersey held by Pedro Mario.

And they almost went two clear 10 minutes afterwards, when Ronaldinho touched a free kick to his right for Rafael Marquez to drive in a low shot that hit a divot and bounced wickedly on its way through to Laquait, bouncing clear off the Recreativo goalkeeper’s body. A second goal then would have flattered Barça’s stilted efforts.

Recreativo were having some success in keeping Barça quiet by marking Xavi and Deco, the two more creative players, closely, and defending in depth.Theatrical falls in the opposition penalty area apart, Deco’s bad foul on Rosu was evidence of their frustration. Even though Ronaldinho was quiet for long periods, his ability to suddenly come to life was never more evident than in the 56th minute, when he lost his marker and headed Sylvinho’s curling cross powerfully past Laquait.

We must say that now Barça looked a different football team, and two minutes later Xavi produced another fine header to convert Belletti’s cross, this time from the right. A foul on Saviola gave Ronaldinho his chance to make it a hat-trick, but Laquait made a fine diving save.