Barcelona 'Fantastic Four' misfire in poor draw
27 August 2007, MADRID - Barcelona left French striker Thierry Henry on the bench at the start of Sunday's La Liga opener at Racing Santander but his fellow strike partners left their shooting boots behind as the Catalan club could only manage a goalless stalemate.
27 August 2007
MADRID - Barcelona left French striker Thierry Henry on the bench at the start of Sunday's La Liga opener at Racing Santander but his fellow strike partners left their shooting boots behind as the Catalan club could only manage a goalless stalemate.
Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o started in attack before coach Frank Rijkaard threw on the other member of his "Fantastic Four", Henry, signed from Arsenal for 24 million euros, in an unsuccessful bid to break the deadlock at the Sardinero stadium.
With Real Madrid having begun their title defence Saturday with a 2-1 derby win at the Bernabeu over Atletico the pressure was on Barca to deliver but their general demeanour suggested they were mentally on their summer holidays.
"Sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the team," Henry said beforehand to Barcelona-based paper La Vanguardia - but such was Barca's lethargy in the opening 45 minutes it seemed Rijkaard had snubbed the wrong man.
It was Santander, who spent nothing in the close season compared with Real's 120 million euro outlay and 70 million for Barcelona, who made the better start in the sunshine on the north coast and visiting keeper Dely Valdes had to be alert to deny Oscar Serrano, left unmarked in the box.
Barca had another fright on 22 minutes when Gonzalo Colsa hit the post when he should have done better and only after 30 minutes did Barca have a half chance as Eto'o headed over before Ronaldinho drove a freekick too high.
Despite their aparent lethargy the Catalan club nearly went ahead on the stroke of half-time when Luis Fernandez stretched to clear off a Xavi chip off the Santander line.
A Javier Iniesta snapshot wide after good work by Ronaldinho saw Barca struggling to improve after the interval and with 29 minutes left Henry made his bow in place of Messi, arguably livelier than his fellow forwards.
Santander nearly broke the deadlock in the 65th minute as an effort from Ebi Smolarek flashed just wide but the Pole then blotted his copybook as he chopped down Barca's new French defender Eric Abidal to earn a dismissal with 20 minutes remaining.
A Henry snapshot then rebounded off the woodwork as Barca belatedly pressed for the three points, beefing up their creative strength with the arrival of Portuguese star Deco for new Ivory Coast signing Yaya Toure.
But Santander held firm to take a deserved point and give further early cheer to Real.
Elsewhere Sunday, promoted Almeria shocked Deportivo La Coruna with a 3-0 away win and Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna ended goalless.
Later, Valencia and Villarreal were meeting in an eastern derby of two sides with top five aspirations.
On Saturday, Seville, who came third last year to make it into the Champions League, thrashed Getafe 4-1, coming from behind in a repeat of the Spanish Cup final to wreck Michael Laudrup's first game in charge.
[Copyright AFP with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news