Barca’s first-half blitz sinks Bayern

BARCELONA took a giant step towards the semi-finals of the Champions League last night as they thrashed Bayern Munich 4-0 at the Nou Camp.

Barca’s rampant strikeforce did the damage in a completely one-sided first half.

The Catalans raced into a two-goal lead within 12 minutes as Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o struck early on.

And the locals’ dominance brought two more goals before half-time, with Thierry Henry setting up Messi for his second seven minutes before the break and then slotting home a fourth himself just before the interval.

Bayern had advanced to the quarter-finals in style, thrashing Sporting Lisbon 12-1 on aggregate to seal a spot in the last eight. But Jurgen Klinsmann’s side have been less impressive in the Bundesliga.

They came into this match in fourth place and on the back of a humiliating 5-1 defeat at Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Following that disappointment, Klinsmann opted to drop goalkeeper Michael Rensing, while Philip Lahm remains short of fitness and was left on the bench.

With striker Miroslav Klose out injured and Lukas Podolski set to leave the club at the end of the season, Bayern began with Italy striker Luca Toni alone up front.

But Barcelona, with only Eric Abidal missing from their strongest XI, fielded a customary attack-minded line-up.

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield and Messi, Eto’o and Henry causing havoc up front, Pep Guardiola’s side soon took control of the game.

The Catalans tore the visitors’ defence apart with a flowing move and Eto’o set up Messi, who drilled a neat finish past Hans-Jorg Butt to open the floodgates after just nine minutes.

And three minutes later, Messi returned the compliment as he slid a deadly ball into the path of Eto’o and the Cameroon striker clinically slotted past the helpless Butt.

Messi should have had a penalty five minutes later when he was brought down in the box by Christian Lell.

But instead, the Argentina forward received a booking for his troubles as the Nou Camp roared with disapproval.

Seven minutes before the break Henry beat his marker for pace on the left and flashed a low centre across the six-yard box which Messi poked home with his outstretched right leg to give Barcelona a three-goal lead.

And two minutes before the break, the Catalans scored again.

Messi charged in from the right flank and laid the ball off to Eto’o, who in turn found Henry and the unmarked Frenchman slid a low angled drive into the bottom right-hand corner to virtually seal Barca’s passage to the semi-final within just 45 minutes.

Bayern were also lucky not to go down to 10 men as former Barca midfielder Mark Van Bommel got away with a cynical elbow on Messi just before Henry slotted home.

Iniesta then miscued a shot from six yards out as the locals threatened to go five ahead before the break. Their dominance continued after the interval and while Rafa Marquez’s late booking means he will miss the return leg in Munich, Barcelona should now progress to the semi-finals for the second year running to face either Liverpool or Chelsea.

Barcelona subs: Keita on for Henry, 74; Busquets for Touré, 81; Krkic for Eto’o, 89.

Bayern Munich subs: Ottl for Hamit Altintop, 46; Sosa for Zé Roberto, 76.


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