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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 5, 2006

Strong start the key to Barca win, says Rijkaard

BARCELONA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - A contented Frank Rijkaard said his side's focused and determined start at the Nou Camp was the key to a classy 2-0 victory over Werder Bremen that secured their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League.

'We started very well and took our chances,' the Barca coach told a news conference. 'It was important that Werder began a little timidly and maybe they felt the pressure more than us.'

Needing a win to avoid elimination from the competition, the defending champions stamped their authority on the game from the first whistle, catching Werder cold as they went 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes thanks to goals from Ronaldinho and Eidur Gudjohnsen.

Werder fought back strongly after the break but their reaction came too late and they were unable to cash in on several good scoring chances as they left the Nou Camp empty handed.

'I'm very happy with the way we played as you have to show your class in these sort of matches,' said Rijkaard.

'I think we had a great first half and then we showed we could fight and hold on to our lead. The effort that the team made to get that early advantage was very great indeed and helped us to settle into the game.

'It was important to get through as we had some high quality rivals in this group. The team made a huge effort to get the lead and played some very attractive football. But our opponents were a quality team too and we had work hard to hold out in the second half.'

Werder coach Thomas Schaaf said that his side had paid a heavy price for their slow start.

'We didn't find our rhythm as we'd hoped and Barcelona started very strongly,' he said. 'We played a lot better in the second half but the early goal made things very difficult for us.

'We knew Barca would pressure us from early on but we made two crucial errors.'

Schaaf said his defence had been at fault on Barca's opening goal by allowing Ronaldinho to fire a shot under the jumping wall when he took a free kick from outside the area.

'It was an error by our defence because it is harder to score by shooting over the wall and we should have avoided it. The ball shouldn't go through the wall like that.'

But he added that despite his side's elimination his side could hold their heads up high after their displays in the group stage.

'We are proud of our performance in such a hard group but sad we couldn't achieve our objective of qualifying,' he said.

'We were able to give our fans some thrills, we had had some great performances, but unfortunately didn't pull of the great big upset. Now we'll go into another competition and try to do better there,' he added of their progress into the UEFA Cup.'