Barcelona 2 Benfica 0: Ronaldinho sets Barcelona on way to last four

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The Independent Online

Goals from Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o took Barcelona into the semi-finals of the Champions' League, but the uneasy manner of the victory suggests Frank Rijkaard's side will have to improve to overcome Milan.

"We were under the strain," admitted the Dutch coach who will now face his old team, "but such tension is normal when the result of the first leg is 0-0. We needed all our concentration because we are not a team who scores and defends the advantage."

Ronaldinho had to wait just three minutes for his first chance, when Barça were awarded a penalty after the Benfica defender Anderson handled. Ronaldinho drove the ball towards the Benfica goal. His Brazilian compatriot Marcelo Moretto dived right to save.

The first leg was goalless but Rijkaard's side are formidable on their home turf and deserved their 18th-minute lead after Samuel Eto'o slipped a cross in front of Moretto. Waiting on the edge of the six-yard box was Ronaldinho, this time making sure by side-footing home the tie's first goal.

Five minutes later, Ronaldinho skimmed a free-kick past Moretto's post, Benfica limited to relying on counter-attacks from Italian winger Fabrizio Miccoli. Barça 's domination continued in the second half, but their recent profligacy was again evident. Typical, then, that Eto'o escaped his marker four minutes after the break, but was unable to centre for Henrik Larsson, poised and unmarked on the edge of the box.

Benfica defended resolutely - unlike Barça's defenders Presas Oleguer and Juliano Belletti who were confused by a cross from Miccoli, on the hour. With just Victor Valdes to beat, Simao Sabrosa squandered Benfica's best chance.

With nine minutes remaining, Benfica introduced the towering forward Marcel, switching to 4-2-1-3. Their cavalier approach contributed to their undoing, Barça finding space to attack and scoring a second two minutes from time after Eto'o smashed the ball past Moretto from close range.

"We started very insecurely and lost too many balls in the first half to really get into the game," said Benfica's coach, Ronald Koeman. "We got more control in the second half and had moments where we could have done them a little damage but overall I'm not questioning the superiority of Barça ."

The last time Barça and Benfica met in the European Cup, the Catalans advanced after a goalless first leg in Lisbon with a 2-1 home victory. The year was 1992 and Barça went on to win their only European Cup.

This performance was never vintage, but, given the manner in which Rijkaard's side have illuminated the Continent this season, many will hope history repeats itself in Paris next month.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Van Bronkhorst, Oleguer, Puyol, Belletti; Iniesta, Deco, Van Bommel (Edmilson 83); Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Larsson (Giuly 85). Substitutes not used: Jorquera (gk), Maxi, Sylvinho, Rodri, Ezquerro.

Benfica (4-3-3): Moretto; Rocha, Luisao, Anderson, Leo; Beto (Robert 71), Petit, Fernandes (Marcel 81); Simao, Geovanni (Karagounis 54), Miccoli. Substitutes not used: Quim (gk), Mantorras, Karyaka, Nelson.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

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