Flying forwards are failed by familiar flaws

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The Independent Football

The Catalonian lad accompanying his family into the Nou Camp last night wearing a Milan shirt bearing Andrei Shevchenko's name must have been the only spectator in the ground suffering anything like divided loyalties. But with his hero not required to clock on because of a thigh injury, he could have enjoyed every phase of a typically eventful encounter between these old adversaries: Barcelona's early dominance; Chelsea's spirited retaliations immediately after half-time, then right at the finish; and all the physicality and theatricals interspersing some outstanding football.

Perhaps he even transferred affections to the other player of world renown being celebrated on the blue-and-red striped apparel of what looked very much like an older brother. Ronaldinho was for an hour outdone by the young bloods around him, before rousing himself to lay on the second goal for Jose Mourinho's least favourite actor.

But the draw brought gloom to all six tiers of this extraordinary stadium, three points being required to diminish the threat from Werder Bremen, who were a late Lionel Messi goal from beating Barça on the second matchday and are now threatening to steal the second qualification spot.

Successive defeats recently by Real Madrid and Chelsea had upset thebarcelonistas, who were only partly mollified by a routine victory over Recreativo at the weekend, confirming their position as leaders in La Liga. Significantly, the attendance that day was 20,000 down on capacity (a mere 76,000 being present) but last night they were back in numbers hoping to see more of Ronaldinho's toothy smile. Despite two goals on Saturday, it has not been much in evidence since victory in the Champions' League final against Arsenal last May; a poor World Cup being followed by a modest start to the new campaign; the combination seems unlikely to make him the first player to be named World Footballer of the Year three times in a row.

Many feel that Deco is a worthy successor, an argument advanced by the midfielder's dextrous pulling of strings here. Known better than all other opponents to his former Porto coach Mourinho, he proved as elusive as the equally gifted Messi, whose easy glide past Ashley Cole in the first minute was an ominous warning. Within two more minutes, Deco made a goal on the opposite side of the pitch - Ronaldinho's patch. And Deco was involved in the next sublime move, for his little midfield companion Xavi, which brought a fine save from Hilario.

Meanwhile, Ludovic Giuly sat with a group of fellow substitutes - among them Lilian Thuram, Javier Saviola and Andres Iniesta - who for once made Chelsea's dug-out look understrength in comparison. What Barça can still lack, for all the experience of Carles Puyol and the Mexican Rafael Marquez, is concentration at the back. Chelsea were able to exploit that early in the second half by creating two chances for Arjen Robben and then an individualistic equaliser for Frank Lampard. Ronaldinho was not having that. Surging away from Khalid Boulahrouz, he reminded the young upstarts on both sides not to disrespect their elders by crossing on the run with the outside of his right foot - then smiling almost as widely as the recipient, Eidur Gudjohnsen. But the fallibility behind him betrayed the European champions again.

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