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Relieved Guardiola savours maiden Barca win

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 16 Sep 2008


Pep Guardiola finally tasted his first competitive win as Barcelona manager with his side defeating Sporting Lisbon 3-1 in Tuesday's Champions League Group C opener at the Nou Camp.

Barca had made their worst start to the league for 35 years with one point from the first two matches but last season's semi-finalists kicked off their European campaign with a much-needed win.

Rafael Marquez and Samuel Eto'o, two of the survivors from the 2006 Champions League triumph, gave Barca a commanding 2-0 lead after an hour and Xavi scored late on to ease nerves after Tonel had pulled a goal back for Sporting.

“It was nice to score with the penalty but winning was the most important thing,” said goalscorer Eto'o.

“We needed a victory after the difficult league start because otherwise the nerves can start to creep in. We had to get some confidence.”

The victory was a huge relief for Guardiola, a European Cup winner with Barca as a player in 1992, who had seen his team lose to Numancia and draw with Racing Santander.

Barcelona were overwhelming favourites to top group C – with FC Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk also in the group – before the draw was made and with three points on the board they are in great shape.

Barcelona's next group match is at Ukraine outfit Shakhtar on October 1.

French international Thierry Henry was back in the Barca starting line-up after being dropped for tactical reasons in the weekend's 1-1 draw against Racing Santander.

Henry is trying to win the only major medal missing from his collection and went close to opening the scoring on 10 minutes with a great shot on the turn that went close to the right hand post.

Lionel Messi almost broke the deadlock dancing and jinking his way past three Sporting defenders but his left-footed curler went centimetres wide.

Marquez provided the breakthrough on 20 minutes brilliantly directing his header across goal.

It was Barca's first goal from open play this season and the relief was tangible.

Sporting coach Paulo Bento promised his team would go for the win but the Portuguese visitors were second best in all departments.

Brazilian Fabio Rochemback, back at the Nou Camp having spent two seasons at Barca from 2001 to 2003, offered hope with a fierce shot but Victor Valdes punched away the effort.

Henry went close again just before the break as the visitors were hanging on.

It was more of the same in the second half and a push on Eto'o saw Barca awarded a penalty after an hour.

Messi took the last penalty against Racing at the weekend but Eto'o was given the honour – possibly to boost his confidence – and he made no mistake sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Tonel pulled one back on 70 minutes as Barca failed to defend a set-piece but Xavi raced onto a deft Andres Iniesta pass to slide home the third.


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