Barça's beauty overwhelms Mourinho's beasts

Barcelona 2 Internazionale 0
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The Independent Online

"Mourinho go to the theatre," taunted 98,000 Barcelona supporters last night as the Internazionale coach watched his team outclassed by the European Cup holders. Jose was reminded of comments made about Leo Messi getting Asier Del Horno sent off in 2006, as his big chance of pushing his old club towards European Cup elimination disappeared.

Messi on the bench wasn't even needed as Barça completely outclassed Inter, finding the form that saw them beat Manchester United in last season's final. Frustrated by Barça's dominance, Inter were left looking for the man instead of the ball in the closing stages. Cristian Chivu's blatant charge on Andres Iniesta deserved more than the yellow card it received. In the end it was a case of Pep Guardiola's beauty against Mourinho's beast and the result was a no contest.

"They were spectacular," Mourinho admitted afterwards. "Obviously Pedro is not Messi but he is a very good player. The story changed a little bit in the second half but in the end they were just much better than us. They are so good at passing the ball around at pace. But we can still win the tournament. Real think they are favourites, Chelsea think they are favourites, Barça think they are favourites. Being beaten by them in the group does not mean that we cannot go on and beat them in the later stages."

With Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both on the bench, Thierry Henry started as Barcelona's central striker flanked by Iniesta and Pedro. Jose Mourinho predictably erred on the side of caution leaving Wesley Sneijder on the bench along with Mario Balotelli, opting for graft over craft in midfield.

Samuel Eto'o, starting up front with Diego Milito, was given a deafening ovation by Barça fans when his name was announced but those cheers turned to whistles every time he got the ball.

Xavi's deflected shot won the home side their first corner and it fizzed across the Inter six-yard box. Iniesta's pass was then so nearly turned in by Xavi and he then looked to send Henry through with another defence-splitting pass. But Walter Samuel got to the ball ahead of the Frenchman.

Henry was responding to the challenge of leading the line for Barcelona in Ibrahimovic's absence and his contribution was crucial on 10 minutes as Barcelona broke the deadlock. He flicked on Xavi's corner and Gerard Pique converted at the far post to make it 1-0. A fired-up Henry then won a free-kick for Barcelona on the edge of the Inter box after receiving a pass from Xavi who then went close with the free-kick. The former Arsenal man then had a shot beaten out by Julio Cesar as Barça continued to dance around Inter's midfield.

On 26 minutes Barcelona doubled their lead going from just inside Inter's half to their second goal with just three touches. Xavi played Dani Alves down the right with a pass inside defender Chivu. The Brazilian crossed first time and Pedro – from just inside the penalty box – finished past Julio Cesar.

Carles Puyol was then booked for upending Milito and Victor Valdes miscontrolled an Eric Abidal backpass. The ball ran out to Eto'o who touched it on to Lucio but the Brazilian sent Inter's only first-half chance over the bar.

There were more hugs for Eto'o as he came back on to the pitch at half-time. If being kind to their former striker was a deliberate tactic to put him off his game it was working. Esteban Cambiasso was replaced by Sulley Muntari but the change did nothing to knock Barcelona out of their stride.

In a rare Inter attack Eto'o had a weak penalty claim turned down as he was muscled off of the ball by Alves who then surged down the right and crossed for Xavi. The midfielder's effort was palmed away by Julio Cesar.

Muntari brought down Henry and from the resulting free-kick Alves then forced Julio Cesar into another save. Having cleared the resulting corner Eto'o was sent scuttling down the left, but his poor cross-shot summed up a disappointing return for both the striker and his manager.

Barcelona (4-3-2-1): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal (Maxwell, 88); Xavi, Busquets, Keita; Pedro (Bojan, 85), Iniesta; Henry. Substitutes not used: Pinto (gk), Marquez, Ibrahimovic, Messi, Jonathan.

Internazionale(4-4-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Samuel, Lucio, Chivu; Zanetti, Cambiasso (Muntari, h-t), Motta, Stankovic (Balotelli, 60); Eto'o, Milito (Quaresma, 80). Substitutes not used: Toldo (gk), Cordoba, Vieira, Materazzi.

Referee: M Busacca (Switzerland).

Group F

Results so far: Internazionale 0 Barcelona 0, Dynamo Kiev 3 R Kazan 1; Barcelona 2 D Kiev 0, R Kazan 1 Internazionale 1; Barcelona 1 R Kazan 2, Internazionale 2 D Kiev 2; D Kiev 1 Internazionale 2, R Kazan 0 Barcelona 0; Barcelona 2 Internazionale 0, R Kazan 0 D Kiev 0.

Remaining fixtures: Wed 9 Dec: D Kiev v Barcelona, Internazionale v R Kazan.

Rubin Kazan 0-0 Dynamo Kiev A scrappy draw in Russia dented the qualification hopes of the other two teams in Group F. There were few clear chances in a game played in snowy conditions. Rubin's Argentinian striker Alejandro Dominguez missed the best chance of the match when his overhead kick was saved by Dynamo goalkeeper Olexander Shovkovsky.

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