Ronnie treble in Barca stroll
By Mark Kendall. Last Updated: September 27, 2005 9:35pm
Ronaldinho inspired Barcelona to a 4-1 win over Udinese with a polished hat-trick at Camp Nou.
The Brazilian stole the show with three effortless finishes as the Catalans served notice of their undoubted attacking potency, although Udinese - who played most of the second half with ten men - showed that the Liga outfit are still more than a little vulnerable at the back.
Ronaldinho was joined on the score-sheet by Deco, but it was the performance of Lionel Messi that really caught the eye as the Argentine starlet went some way to rivalling his South American team-mate for the man-of-the-match award.
Barca always looked in control, but on seven minutes a sloppy Deco ball handed possession to Damiano Zenoni in a dangerous position with only alert defending from Carles Puyol denying Paulo Barreto a chance.
Messi was soon demonstrating his potential, cutting in off the left flank and drilling in a low shot that Morgan De Sanctis held well.
Just two minutes later the Argentine starlet set off on another terrific surge, this time from inside his own half, which was only ended when he was bundled over by Jose Luis Vidigal on the edge of the Udinese box.
The Portuguese midfielder was promptly booked, but more punishment was to follow as Ronaldinho stepped up and curled a sumptuous free kick over the wall and into the top corner.
Udinese responded well and Victor Valdes had to be alert to tip a stinging Zenoni shot wide, but Mark van Bommel showed the wide-ranging goal threat that Barca possess by tricking his way past Valerio Bertotto and sending a deft lob just wide.
Camp Nou was, though, silenced on 23 minutes when poor marking at a corner allowed Udinese defender Felipe to sneak in unchallenged at the far post to turn the ball high into the net.
Barca refused to be bowed by the goal and were straight back on the attack with the eye-catching Messi at the heart of much of their best work.
The teenager will have been disappointed to have shot over from no more than six yards at a corner, but was straight back into the action, slipping through Samuel Eto'o whose shot was cleared off line by Vidigal after De Sanctis had taken some of the pace off it.
The hosts did find the net on 32 minutes, Messi robbed Felipe on the halfway line and again released Eto'o who surged into the box and to the byline before cutting back for Ronaldinho who calmly slotted into the bottom corner.
Two became three five minutes before the interval when referee Steve Bennett awarded Barca another free kick within shooting range.
With a hat-trick beckoning Ronaldinho unsurprisingly shaped up to take it, but stepped aside for Deco who obliged by curling a peach of his own over the wall and into the roof of the net.
With the party tricks beginning to flow, Udinese's unenviable task became even more difficult four minutes after the break when they were reduced to ten men.
Vidigal's blatant block on the rampaging Juliano Belletti earned him a second caution of the night and saw his side abandon any hope of finding their way back into the game.
In truth, the dismissal seemed to curb some of Barca's attacking intent with much of the urgency and imagination of their first-half efforts evaporating.
Eto'o was one player still itching to find the back of the net to continue his run of having scored on his five previous home appearances, but the Cameroon star was lacking his usual precision in front of goal and was replaced by Henrik Larsson for the final ten minutes after a wild volley summed up his night's efforts.
Another substitute Santiago Ezquerro really should have added a fourth two minutes from time but contrived to screw the ball horribly wide of goal having been sent clear by Deco.
Fittingly Ronaldinho did grab the final word by completing his hat-trick in the final minute, albeit courtesy of a rather dubious penalty.
The Brazilian schemer went down easily under challenge from Felipe but needed no second invitation from the spot and got up to sweep high past De Sanctis to put a real gloss on the scoreline.
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|3||1st Half Goals||1|
|10||Shots on Target||4|
|10||Shots off Target||5|
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