The teenage striker Bojan Krkic struck early to give Barcelona a valuable away victory over Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final last night.
In the 12th minute, Andres Iniesta put Thierry Henry through on the left and the Frenchman worked himself clear for a shot. The Schalke goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, fumbled the ball at the near post, Henry put it back across the face of goal and the 17-year-old Bojan tapped it in at the far post.
"I'm delighted for Bojan because he just does everything right on the field," said Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona's coach. "Every decision he takes is the right one. You look at his age and then you see him performing like a great player for his team. He deserves special congratulation. He shouldn't lose his humility and should keep working, but really, it was a pleasure to watch him."
Bojan's goal lifts some of the pressure that has been building on Rijkaard and keeps Barcelona on course for a second title in three years, although Manchester United are likely to provide the opposition in the semi-finals
"I didn't think the team would have so much respect," the Schalke coach, Mirko Slomka, said. "We only applied pressure in the second half and made some threats. We should have put them under more pressure from the start. It's not going to be easy in Barcelona but we wouldn't be going there if we didn't have any hope."
In the first half Schalke at times looked out of their depth, even though Barcelona were without the competition's top scorer, Lionel Messi, as well as Ronaldinho and Deco. The match, before a capacity crowd of 53,951, was played under a closed roof at the Arena AufSchalke because of heavy rain.
Iniesta should have put the visitors ahead even before the goal, when Xavi had put him through, but Neuer blocked the ball with his foot. With Xavi and Iniesta controlling the midfield, Barcelona limited Schalke to several attempts from distance until the visitors' defence allowed Heiko Westermann to close on goal unchallenged in the 58th minute, but the defender's shot was too high. Iniesta replied for Barcelona, but Neuer covered the shot.
Schalke's best chance came when Christain Pander found Fabian Ernst at the edge of the area, but his shot trickled harmlessly wide. "We had too much respect for them," the Schalke midfielder Gerald Asamoah said. "The coach told us at half-time to put them under more pressure and we tried to do that. We played better but we could not score."
Schalke 04 (4-4-2): Neuer; Rafinha, Bordon, Krstajic, Westermann; Asamoah (Larsen, 73), Ernst, Kobiashvili, Pande; Kuranyi (Sanchez, 60), Altintop (Lovenkrands, 89). Substitutes not used: Schober (gk), Abel, Grossmuller, Howedes.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Zambrotta, Puyol, Milito, Abidal; Xavi, Yaya Touré (Marquez, 73), Iniesta; Bojan (Sylvinho, 86), Eto'o (Giovanni, 82), Henry. Substitutes not used: Pinto (gk), Marquez, Gudjohnsen, Edmilson, Thuram.
Referee: K Vassaras (Greece).