Brilliant Barca fire five
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 02/11/05 9:35pm
Barcelona sent out the most devastating of warnings to the rest of Europe, with a stunning 5-0 victory over Panathinaikos at Camp Nou.
A hat-trick from Samuel Eto'o and goals from Mark van Bommel and Lionel Messi went some way to reflecting the Catalans' dominance, but in truth only a score consisting of double figures could have accurately summed up the fantastic football that Frank Rijkaard's men produced.
Barcelona flew out of the blocks to score in the first minute - without Panathinaikos even touching the ball, as the hosts embarked on one of the best 45-minute performances ever produced in the UEFA Champions League.
A sublime ball from Andres Iniesta split the Greek defence and van Bommel - of all people - strolled through to calmly loft the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.
The strike was the Dutchman's first ever Champions League goal, and it was one that opened the game up for an irresistible Barca side.
Lionel Messi, the young Argentine wonderkid who has been compared to the great Diego Maradona, announced himself two minutes after van Bommel's strike, surging into the box to force a smart save from Mario Galinovic.
Eto'o was next to threaten after a woeful pass from Filippos Darlas allowed the deadly striker to race through, only for Galinovic to thwart him with a fine reaction stop.
The hosts were then almost the makers of their own downfall as Carlos Puyol and Victor Valdes managed to get in each other's way with Sotiris Leontiou lurking, but the ball just would not fall for the Greek.
However, it was merely a blip in an otherwise superb first half for the Catalans, and they soon extended their lead, with the clever Iniesta chipping a diagonal ball into Eto'o, who headed the ball into the top corner for his first Champions League goal of the campaign.
Crazily enough, all of Barcelona's attacking work had so far come without a great deal of involvement from Ronaldinho, but that was about to change as the Brazilian began to stamp his own unique mark on the game.
Coming into the centre to receive more ball, the Barca number 10 endeavoured to create chances for Eto'o and Messi, before bringing the best out of the one-man rearguard of Galinovic from a free kick.
Iniesta then came close to a hat-trick of first half assists, slipping the elusive Messi through but the youngster's effort was harshly ruled out for offside.
However, the much-deserved goal did arrive for the South American before the break, as he pounced on a defensive mix-up between Igor Biscan and Darlas to deftly lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.
The ten outfield players of Barcelona were quite simply unstoppable, and it was only right that goalkeeper Victor Valdes should get in on the act, saving magnificently from Flavio Conceicao after a great build up from Panathinaikos.
The save was rewarded within seconds, as the Barca forward trio combined in an exquisitely swift manner that summed up the first 45 minutes.
Messi was once again at the heart of the move, driving at the heart of the defence before shifting the ball to Ronaldinho, who unselfishly fed Eto'o for his second of the night.
The second period started with a slightly slower tempo - it had to, the first half was breathtaking.
Panathinaikos needed an early goal if the miracle of all miracles was going to happen, and they came very close to getting it, but Puyol lunged in front of Dimitrios Papadopoulos when it seemed the striker had to score.
Ronaldinho and Messi were soon peppering the Greek goal once again though, and it was the latter who looked odds-on to score before his shot deflected just wide.
Next it was Oleguer's turn to benefit from the Brazilian's unerring footwork, racing onto a through ball after Ronaldinho had escaped two defenders, but the right back drove his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Yet if the Camp Nou crowd thought they had seen the best of their team in the first half, the piste-de-resistance was still to arrive.
Xavi, Ronaldinho and Messi all combined with some delightful one-touch passing to feed Eto'o, who proceeded to add the cherry to the most sumptuous of cakes by curling the ball past Galinovic from 25 yards.
Still the chances kept coming, and it was the frustrated Ronaldinho who was again denied by the Pana goalkeeper from another well-executed free kick.
To their credit, the Greeks continued to work hard but there were no answers as Barca continued to entertain until referee Rene Temmink finally brought the curtain down on a brilliantly entertaining 90 minutes.
Panathinaikos stunned, superlatives exhausted, Barcelona - majestic.
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|4||1st Half Goals||0|
|15||Shots on Target||1|
|4||Shots off Target||5|
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