Champions League – Barca grind out win in Gelsenkirchen
Barcelona have put themselves in pole position for a Champions League semi-final spot after 17-year-old Bojan Krkic scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
The Catalans were far from their best on the night but Schalke only started putting the visitors under pressure in the final half hour and couldn’t find a deserved equaliser.
Henry then cut inside and side footed a poor shot towards goal, however, Manuel Neuer, who was superb in the previous round against Porto, spilled the ball, allowing the off-balance Henry to poke it across the goal for Bojan to tap in from close range.
With the goal, Bojan, aged just 17 years and 217 days, becomes the second youngest goalscorer in Champions League history after former Olympiacos man Peter Ofori-Quaye.
The warning signs were there for Schalke even before that goal with Neuer having to make an early stop to deny Iniesta as Barcelona controlled the pace of the game in the early stages.
Their crisp passing quickly took the fizz out the previously rocking Veltins-Arena as Schalke put in subdued and limp performance which was at odds with the magnitude of the occasion.
Despite missing the likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, and Deco – Barca remained in the ascendancy in the early stages of the second-half with a low drive from distance from Christian Pander in the 50th minute being Schalke’s first decent attempt on target.
However, Frank Rijkaard’s under-fire side quickly degenerate into a sloppy outfit, and started showing the unconvincing form that has seen them cut adrift in the Liga title race in recent weeks.
Ernst dragged his effort poorly wide and Gerald Asamoah couldn’t redirect it in, but Atintop did better as he dinked a ball over Victor Valdes only to see it trickle wide.
12 minutes from time substitute Soren Larsen then had a free header in the box but made a mess of it and screwed it wide, while the impressive Heiko Westermann had a decent shout for a penalty when he looked to be pulled back by Eric Abidal while heading over a Pander free-kick.
Marcelo Bordon also glanced a header over in stoppage time, but Barcelona held on for the win and will go back to the Nou Camp in a week’s time confident they can finish the job.
With Manchester United having won 2-0 in Rome, the dream semi-final between Barca and United now looks a real possibility.
However, Barcelona will have to improve on this performance if they are expected to deny Alex Ferguson’s in-form side a spot in Moscow.