The God's Given Lionel Messi - messilegend

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Messi Steers Barcelona to Second Title For This Season


Barcelona defeats Shakhtar to win UEFA Super Cup

MONACO (AP) - Barcelona substitute Pedro Rodriguez scored the only goal deep into extra time to lead the European Cup holder 1-0 over UEFA Cup winner Shakhtar Donetsk in the European Super Cup on Friday.

Rodriguez pounced onto a pass from Lionel Messi with five minutes of extra time remaining and prodded the ball into the bottom corner to finally break the Ukrainian team's stubborn resistance at Stade Louis II.

Barcelona last won the Super Cup in 1997 and also in 1992, but lost in 2006 to UEFA Cup winner Sevilla.

Coach Pep Guardiola guided Barca to the treble last season, adding the La Liga and Copa del Rey domestic double to victory in the Champions League.

He already has two trophies this season after completing a 5-1 win in the two-leg Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao last Sunday.

"We've managed to bring two Super Cups home so we're pretty happy. It's a great evening. We haven't lost the essence of the side," Guardiola said through a translator.

Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said it was "extremely difficult" to play a team like Barcelona.

"Barcelona is a great team. I know how they play and organize things. I'm happy because we played a good game," Lucescu said.

Messi, Barca's star in the Champions League final win over Manchester United, settled the result with a typical piece of skill, rolling the ball from his right foot to his left and playing a reverse pass into Rodriguez's path as he ran round the back of a defender.

Tempers flared at the end of regulation time when Messi went on a mazy run into the area and complained angrily that he had been impeded just as he was about to shoot.

Shakhtar didn't threaten Barcelona's goal until extra time when substitute Julius Aghahowa ran through and forced goalkeeper Victor Valdes into a low save in the 97th minute. Barcelona replacement Bojan Krkic's angled shot was saved by goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov a minute later as the game finally came to life.

Rodriguez, another product of Barca's flourishing youth team, saw his angled shot cleared off the line by right back Darijo Srna early in the second period of extra time.

Barca started the match brightly, with Thierry Henry's turn and shot from 20 yards (meters) just over.

But chances were few for Barcelona in the first half against Shakhtar's defense, which denied Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic space.

A neat move between Messi and Ibrahimovic in the 32nd released the Sweden striker down the left but his return pass to Messi was intercepted. A minute later, Messi squeezed a shot in from the left that Pyatov saved.

Shakhtar showed good movement off the ball but Lucescu's team failed to take a shot at goal until the 84th.

Ibrahimovic and Yaya Toure, Barcelona's most physical players, gradually started to make their presence felt in the second half. But the understanding between Ibrahimovic - who joined Barca from Inter Milan while Samuel Eto'o went the opposite way - and his new teammates was patchy.

In the 54th, Ibrahimovic stood flapping his arms in frustration after Dani Alves failed to spot him down the left.

Henry, isolated for much of the match, also showed signs of frustration, and totally missed the ball with an attempted bicycle kick after 71 minutes.

Guardiola switched Messi to a deep-lying role midway through the second half, allowing him to burst forward into space and run at the tiring Shakhtar defenders with his electric pace.

That nearly paid off with 15 minutes remaining when Pyatov saved shots from Messi and Henry in quick succession.

Henry then missed from close range in the 86th when he lunged at the back post to meet Carles Puyol's flick on.


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