Levski Sofia 0 Barcelona 2: Giuly strike helps keep Barcelona hopes alive

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Barcelona's pursuit of a place in the knockout stages of the Champions' League received a boost with this comfortable victory at the Bulgaria national stadium in Sofia last night. The European Cup holders, languishing in third place in Group A, had to win to keep their hopes of progressing alive if Chelsea were beaten in Bremen, a result which - no surprise to the cynics - their great rivals managed to achieve.

The Catalans now have to win against Werder Bremen on 5 December to advance, but they will be confident of doing so at the Nou Camp despite the fact that the chemistry of their team has been affected by the long-term loss of the Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o and the brilliant Argentina playmaker, Lionel Messi. If they fail, they will become the first reigning European champions to be eliminated in the group phase.

"In the last match against Werder we have no other option left than to win," said the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard. "It is going to be a difficult game, but I am optimistic."

Barcelona's nerves were quickly settled when Ludovic Giuly gave them the lead after only five minutes, snapping a low volley under the Levski goalkeeper Georgi Petkov after Gianluca's Zambrotta cross from the right had not been cleared. Ronaldinho then had a free-kick just outside the penalty area in the eighth minute, but his shot flew over the bar.

Barcelona added their second goal after 65 minutes when Petkov could not hold on to Deco's long-range shot and Andre Iniesta mopped up the rebound from a few yards out.

Barcelona controlled the game, with Levski often being reduced to shooting from distance but with no success. Levski's best chance to score had come early on when Hristo Yovov beat three Barcelona defenders, but shot wide.

In the 77th minute, Ronaldinho produced a typical run through Levski's defence and passed to Eidur Gudjohnsen, but the former Chelsea forward missed the easiest of opportunities.

Levski Sofia: Petkov; Milanov, Topuzakov, Tomasic, Wagner, Borimirov, Eromoigbe, Stanislav Angelov (Telkiyski, 58), Bardon, Yovov (Ognyanov, 73), Domovchiyski (Miroslav Ivanov, 57). Substitutes not used: Mitrev, Georgi Ivanov, Minev, Nikolay Dimitrov.

Barcelona: Valdes; Zambrotta, Puyol, Marquez (Oleguer, 63), Sylvinho, Motta, Giuly (Xavi, 58), Deco, Iniesta (Ezquerro, 81), Ronaldinho, Gudjohnsen. Substitutes not used: Jorquera, Van Bronckhorst, Edmilson, Thuram.

Referee: I Baskakov (Russia).