Barcelona 5 Levski Sofia 0: Five-star show gets ball rolling for Barcelona

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The Independent Football

Business as usual, then, for Barcelona. The weather may have been more Amazonian than Iberian, but 17 weeks after lifting the European Cup in Paris, Frank Rijkaard's side started this campaign in the convincing fashion that has become their norm by putting five past Levksi Sofia in a rain-swept Nou Camp.

"Winning in this manner will give us even more confidence," said Ronaldinho, who scored Barça's fifth in injury time. "It was a perfect night and I was pleased to get on the scoresheet too."

Levski's coach, Stanimir Stoilov, had no complaints. "I want to congratulate Barcelona," he said. "They deserved their victory. They were a class apart."

The Catalans took just seven minutes to take the lead, the attacking midfielder Andres Iniesta drilling the ball into the bottom left corner after Ronaldinho had cut in from the left to square for Samuel Eto'o. The Cameroon striker laid the ball into the path of Iniesta to score.

Levski are outsiders in a group which also includes Chelsea and Werder Bremen, yet their forthcoming adversaries should be wary. Stoilov had promised that his side would attack and they were true to his word, the full-back Emil Angelov forcing a save from Victor Valdes on 20 minutes. Levski were strong enough to dispatch the Italians Chievo Verona in a qualifying round to become the first Bulgarian side to reach the Champions' League and, backed by a raucous 5,000 following including 1,000 expatriates on chartered flights from London, they looked at ease playing the ball throughout the torrential storm which did not relent for the first half. Barça went further ahead in the 38th minute when Ludovic Giuly received a pass from Eto'o, before lifting the ball over the advancing Petkov.

The Barça captain, Carles Puyol, put his side three ahead in the 48th minute after the goalkeeper Petkov could only parry a Ronaldinho free-kick into his path to fumble home. It was Puyol's first goal in 70 European games.

Eto'o made it four 10 minutes later with the night's best goal after he shook off three defenders to side-foot home. Despite the deficit, Levski never gave up. Their best player, Stanislav Angelov, teased the Barça defence as his compatriot Hristo Stoichkov had done to opponents in these parts a decade ago, yet the difference in class was evident in the scoreline. That was increased to five in injury time when Ronaldinho stepped aside from his marker and curled a shot from the edge of the area.

Optimism is justifiably high at Barcelona. Eidur Gudjohnsen's former team Chelsea, who visit the Nou Camp next month, will provide a truer test than their opponents last night.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Van Bronkhorst, Thuram (Oleguer, 79), Puyol, Belletti; Iniesta (Xavi, 71), Deco, Motta; Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Giuly (Gudjohnsen, 62). Substitutes not used: Zambrotta, Edmilson, Messi, Jorquera (gk).

Levski Sofia: (4-4-2) Petkov; S Angelov, Tomasic, Topuzakov, Milanov; Eromoigbe, Bardon, Borimirov (Minev, 62), Yovov (G Ivanov, 69); E Angelov (M Ivanov h-t), Telkiyski. Substitutes: Koprivarov, Hristov, Bornosuzov, Mihaylov (gk).

Referee: K Plautz (Austria).

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