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Friday, February 06, 2009

Henry showed a good performance in Barcelona victory over Mallorca

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Justificar a ambos ladosBarcelona comfortably saw off Real Mallorca tonight in the Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg, in a win that proved to be far more comfortable than the final score suggests.

As we know, Bojan linked superbly with Thierry Henry to allow the Frenchman to open the scoring, and defender Rafael Marquez doubled their advantage with a stunning second half free-kick to put the Catalan side on the brink of the final.

Unsurprisingly, Mallorca chose to adopt a defensive set-up, playing 4-5-1 with striker Webo given the task of foraging up front against the mean back four of Barcelona. Given their relegation plight and the fact that there is another leg to come, Mallorca could be forgiven for sitting back and allowing the champions elect to break them down.

And with Lionel Messi consigned to the bench for the second encounter in succession, Bojan was given the opportunity to continue his development for the Blaugrana and he was desperate to impress coach Pep Guardiola.

In the eighth minute, he commenced a mazy run that showed all the characteristics of the diminutive Argentine whose place he had taken in the squad. He skipped inside and out, leaving two defenders for dead before drilling a low shot that Lux did well to clear with his feet. Then he spun in the area once more, and warmed the fingers of the away goalkeeper with another low shot. He looked in the mood tonight.

However it should have been Iniesta that opened the scoring on the half hour. Thierry Henry flicked a nonchalant back heel into the path of the Spaniard and as Lux approached he attempted to stab the ball past him rather than dance around his advances, and the ball trickled harmlessly wide of the post.

But the Blaugrana were not to be denied, and the opening goal was all down to the decision making of Bojan, who continues to progress at this level. He used the overlapping run of Dani Alves as a decoy and swung an inviting cross onto the head of former Arsenal man Thierry Henry, who gratefully accepted the chance to nod the ball into the net for this thirteenth strike of the season. It was a goal that was always arriving given the amount of pressure that Mallorca were under.

Given the players that Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano chose to omit from his squad this evening, it appeared that there was a sense of acceptance surrounding the Islanders’ play that Barcelona would triumph tonight. They showed little in either half that suggested that they were willing to mount any kind of counter to Henry’s opener, and instead Barcelona’s second string continued to attack in droves.

The inevitable entrance of Messi as a substitute lifted the atmosphere that was in danger of becoming a little subdued at the Camp Nou, and within minutes of his introduction he almost managed a picture book goal.

He and Iniesta showed telepathic interplay before the Argentine fired a powerful shot that the busy Lux beat around the post. Five minutes later, Messi once more struck a low drive which once again the goalkeeper cleared with his legs.

Bojan did not sparkle in the second half and struggled to make the impact that he had managed in the first, and his sloppy play was representative of Barcleona’s rather lackadaisical attitude to the encounter.

But Marquez lit up the encounter with a sublime finish on 75 minutes that almost certainly put the home side out of reach in the tie. Busquets was brought down on the edge of the area, and the Mexican curled a perfect, accurate free-kick into Lux’s top right hand corner to give them a two goal cushion to take to Mallorca for the second leg.

Once again, it was not vintage, but a thoroughly professional display from a side who can still dream of the treble. Real Mallorca, on the other hand, can now focus all of their efforts onto escaping the bottom three in the Primera Division and preserving their top flight status.


Henry (35'), Marquez (74')


Barcelona: Pinto, Dani Alves, Rafa Marquez, Pique, Abidal, Toure, Iniesta, Gudjohnsen (Buquets 55'), Hleb, Henry (Messi 58'), Bojan (Eto'o 86')

Mallorca: Lux, Josemi, Ramis, Nunes, Ayoze, Corrales, Cleber Santana, Scaloni, Castro, Trejo, Webo (Jurado 69')

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