Barcelona 2 Seville 1: Henry misfires as 'injured' Ronaldinho is talk of town

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The Independent Football

Shortly after Emmanuel Adebayor had scored a hat-trick for Arsenal on Saturday, the man whose boots he seems to be more than adequately filling was taking to the field for Barcelona – and firing yet another round of blanks.

Thierry Henry returned to the role of central striker in the mysterious absence of Ronaldinho. But it was only after he had been shunted back out to the left to allow the dynamic Leo Messi to play centre-forward, that the home side broke Seville's stubborn resistance. While Arsenal go from strength to strength without Henry, he continues to struggle without them. As early as the first minute he had the chance to score his first League goal but his effort was saved by the Seville 'keeper, Andres Palop.

Then twice at the start of the second half Henry came close to heading Barcelona in front – first from a Xavi pass then from a floated free-kick from Deco – but both times failed to get his head to the ball.

The manager Frank Rijkaard introduced Giovanni Dos Santos down the right-hand side of Barcelona's attack midway through the second half and everyone moved one placed left with Messi now in centre-forward territory. From the left Henry's first contribution brought groans from the home crowd as he carried the ball straight into trouble and lost it in Seville's crowded penalty area, but his next effort almost broke the deadlock.

Rafael Marquez played a long raking pass out of defence and with two delicate touches Henry shaped to shoot. Unfortunately the finish was also delicate – an under-hit side-footed shot that Palop was able to palm on to the post. It was the third time Henry had hit the post for Barcelona in the League in four games.

It might have been the defining moment of the match had the "Messi show" not kicked-in almost immediately afterwards. He scored two goals in six minutes, the first from an Henry assist. The Frenchman's pass was overhit and it looped up into the air as Messi tried to trap it but he leapt up and volleyed spectacularly into Palop's bottom left-hand corner.

He then found the same corner, rolling a penalty home after Dos Santos had been fouled to put the game beyond Seville who scored a late consolation through Freddie Kanouté.

After both Messi goals the Argentine paid a very public tribute to Ronaldinho by holding 10 fingers aloft for the "injured" Barcelona No 10. Ronaldinho was not in the stand alongside the other injured men, Samuel Eto'o and Carles Puyol, to see the show of solidarity.

Barcelona claim he was having treatment on the calf strain that had kept him out of the game – an injury that 70 per cent of fans, responding to a poll organised by the Barcelona paper Sport, believe not to exist.

It seems being accused of breaking a 48-hour pre-match curfew before the Osasuna match 10 days ago, being substituted twice in his last two appearances and being whistled by some home fans in the midweek Champions League game against Lyons, were the real reasons behind the Brazilian's decision to rule himself out of the Seville game.

Ronaldinho is also believed to be upset at what he believes is a smear campaign blaming him for Barça's indifferent start – the allegations of his antics before the Osasuna game only came out in the press last Friday. "We have to help him get back his magic," said the Barcelona president Joan Laporta after Saturday's win. "I only want to see him recover quickly – both in terms of the calf injury and in all other ways," added the sporting director Txiki Begiristain.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Zambrotta, Marquez, Milito, Abidal; Xavi (Dos Santos, 61), Touré (Oleguer, 88), Deco; Messi (Bojan, 89), Henry, Iniesta.

Seville (4-4-2): Palop; Alves (Marti, 83), Boulahrouz, Escude, Drago; Navas (Kerzhakov, 78), Poulsen, Keita, Adriano (Duda, h-t); Renato, Kanouté.

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