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Barcelona ease to victory in Stuttgart
October 03, 2007 09:47 IST
Last Updated: October 03, 2007 09:56 IST
Second-half goals from Carles Puyol and Lionel Messi [Images] gave Group E favourites Barcelona a 2-0 win at VfB Stuttgart in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Stuttgart had finished the first half in full flight, twice forcing breathtaking saves from Victor Valdes, only for a soft goal to change the game after the break.
Defender Puyol, an early substitute for the injured Rafael Marquez, poked the ball in from a few metres in the 53rd minute after keeper Raphael Schaefer failed to hold a Ronaldinho [Images] header.
Messi made certain of victory 14 minutes later when he swept the ball in from Thierry Henry's [Images] cut-back.
It was a second victory in two games in the competition for Barcelona and a second defeat for the Bundesliga champions.
That the first half ended without a goal was remarkable given the artistry of 2006 winners Barcelona and the eagerness of Stuttgart.
Ronaldinho, back after an injury lay-off, floated a ball out wide to Messi in the fifth minute and the Argentine set up Deco to thud a shot against the post.
Messi then played a fine one-two with the Brazilian before forcing the first stop from Schaefer.
Barcelona were enjoying themselves and Ronaldinho brought gasps from the crowd with a flick over his head to Henry, whose first-time shot was saved well by Schaefer.
Stuttgart also caused a couple of problems especially when Arthur Boka and centre forwards Cacau and Mario Gomez were running directly at the defence.
The hosts came desperately close in the 33rd minute when Valdes tipped a Gomez header against the bar and then managed to get up to block the striker's follow-up.
His double save at the end of the first half was just as good when Gomez beat the offside trap before whacking in a shot. Valdes kept that out with his fingers and reacted quickly to save again from Alexander Farnerud on the rebound.
Stuttgart's hopes were effectively ended by Barca's opener and they only had themselves to blame.
Deco floated a corner from the right, Ronaldinho headed weakly back in from the far post and Schaefer inexplicably pushed the ball into the path of Puyol.
Puyol had to make way himself after another injury in the 64th minute but Barca were scarcely troubled.
The only surprise was there were no more goals after Messi side-footed the second, with Henry and substitute Bojan Krkic guilty of bad misses.
UEFA Champions League 2007-08: The Complete Coverage