Barça Put Themselves In Pole Position

FC Barcelona 4 - 0 Wisla Krakow

Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side showed that they mean business by producing a scintilating performance to virtually book their place in the group stages of the Champions League.

Samuel Eto'o scored twice to prove that the decision to keep him at the club looks to have been a wise one, while Xavi Hernández and Thierry Henry also netted to complete the rout.

It was a strong display from the Blaugrana on Guardiola's debut as head coach at Camp Nou and showed that his summer of physical training and tactical tweaks are paying off.

Wisla were expected to arrive in Catalunya and defend in numbers and they did just that, showing only glimpses of their true capabilities going forward.

First Half

Eto'o was named as the central striker after it was decided that he would remain at Barça with Henry supporting him on the left and Pedro playing down the right in the absence of Lionel Messi.

Further back Seydou Keita and Dani Alves made their official debits while Rafa Márquez was named as Carles Puyol's partner in the centre of defence.

It was a selection that showed from the start why Barcelona have had such a successful pre-season campaign with the speed of the passing and the movement leaving Wisla running after the ball.

Frank Rijkaard's side often over-passed last term against team that sat back and defended, but Guardiola has looked for more directness and the message is being heard.

What was most surprising was that it took over quart of an hour for the hosts to make the breakthrough and finally find a way past the packed defence facing them.

With 18 minutes on the clock Rafa Márquez produced a defence-splitting pass from in his own half and found Eto'o down the left who raced into the area before producing a sublime shot into the far corner of the net.

The pressure did not let up with the Polish outfit being continuously pressed back and they were fortunate not to go further behind in the 20th minute when Henry shot wide of the post.

A second was not long in coming, however, as four minutes later Xavi opted to go it alone as he took aim from just over 20 yards out and sent a fizzing shot into the bottom corner of the net.

During pre-season the Spain midfielder was told to move forward more and look to score more and he did just that with a goal that he has always been capable of producing but rarely given the green light to go for.

Shortly before the interval Xavi could have added his second and Barça's third when Alves was picked out on the right and he found Eto'o, who in turn passed to the playmaker only for him to clip the ball wide with the keeper to beat.

Second Half

There was no let up after the break as Barça came out after leaving their opponents on the pitch for some time before appearing for the start of the second period.

Within minutes the yellow shorts were pouring forward and Eto'o and Iniesta both tried to find space for shots, but bother were blocked out.

It did not take long for a third to arrive though and in the 50th minute Henry showed why Guardiola has placed more responsibility on his shoulders this season.

Eto'o flicked the ball into the French international's path and he in turn nudged it past his marker before flicking it up and over the approaching Mariusz Pawełek and into the net.

With so many of the club's season ticket holders away, the free seat return system showed how successful it can be as Camp Nou was very busy for a mid-August fixture.

That atmosphere along with the new brand of flowing football meant that there is a renewed hope around the Catalan club after two seasons without winning a major trophy.

Despite dominating, Barcelona could not find a way through again until eight minutes from time, but they were able to make some changes that were well received.

Firstly Touré Yaya came on for Pedro for his first appearance since undergoing surgery on a slipped disc, while Alves went off with a shoulder injury and was replaced by the returning Gerard Piqué.

Soon after the fourth goal arrived and it saw Eto'o make amends for two earlier misses that he should have put away but instead hit the ball off target.

The striker owed his second effort to Iniesta after the playmaker weaved his way in from the right before slotting a pass into the area where the scorer slid it inside the near post.

There was just time for Aliaksandr Hleb to come on and taste Camp Nou as a home player and now Guardiola can contemplate making a few changes for the return leg in two weeks time.

17′ [1 - 0] S. Eto’o

24′ [2 - 0] X. Hernandez

50′ [3 - 0] T. Henry

84′ [4 - 0] S. Eto’o

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Barça Put Themselves In Pole Position Reviewed by admin Ucop on 5:59 PM Rating: 5

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