Barcelona 1 Schalke 04 0 <i>(Barca win 2-0 on agg)</i>: Touré rises above chaos to fire Barca through

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Barcelona battled their way past Schalke 04 last night to set-up a semi-final with Manchester United on 23 April but at the cost of their captain Carles Puyol, who will miss the first leg after being booked, and amidst more off-the-field crisis.

Before last night's game Barcelona were in chaos after a high-ranking club official appeared to admit on Radio Catalunya that Deco and Ronaldinho were being left out of the team because of their off-the-field conduct and not because of injuries as was being officially claimed.

Xavier Sala Martin, who is head of the club's Economic Commission, did not name names but spoke of players who are "out partying late at night" and added: "It is unjust that for one, two or three, who are on holiday all day and of 60 training sessions only go to 21, that we are now saying that all the players are lazy."

Defending his president, Joan Laporta, he added: "It is also unfair to say that Mr Laporta is doing nothing about it. Look at the fact that these individuals who don't appear to be working have not played for a long time.

"For many weeks now they have been exiled and we disguise it as injuries and the like but these players are ostracized and there is an effort to keep them away from the rest of the team."

Deco has not played for a month after injuring himself in the warm-up of Barcelona's meeting with Villarreal. Ronaldinho has missed the last six games with muscular problems and has only started 13 games this season.

He was at the centre of controversy three weeks ago when he missed an away game at Almeria only for the club's medical department to then say that he was not injured.

Last night both were again missing from the squad as Barcelona had to weather the early storm from Schalke. Halil Altintop and Jermaine Jones went close for the rampant visitors while Barcelona looked nervous coming off a run of just one win in their last six league games.

Then three minutes before the break Yaya Touré eased those nerves by putting Barcelona in front. He started the move, spreading the ball wide to Bojan Krkic. He crossed and when Schalke could only clear the ball on to the bar it came back out to Touré who scored from the rebound.

After a quiet first half Thierry Henry had a chance to extend Barcelona's lead in the second period but blasted over after receiving a pass from Bojan and when the 17-year-old was taken off moments later it provoked an angry response from fans unhappy at seeing their best player replaced.

Barcelona never looked like losing their grip on the tie but will be rueing captain and central defensive lynchpin Puyol picking up a booking for a foul on Asamoah.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Zambrotta, Puyol, Thuram, Abidal; Iniesta, Touré (Marquez, 81), Xavi; Eto'o, Bojan (Giovanni, 72), Henry. Substitutes not used: Pinto, Milito, Gudjohnsen, Edmilson, Sylvinho.

Schalke 04 (4-4-2): Neuer; Rafinha (Larsen, 76), Bordon, Krstajic, Westermann; Asamoah (Sanchez, 69), Jones, Ernst, Kobiashvili (Grossmuller, 31); Altintop, Kuranyi. Substitutes not used: Schober, Streit, Howedes, Pander.

Referee: R Rosetti (Italy).