Barcelona stroll to victory over Rangers

BARCELONA, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Goals from Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi earned Barcelona a 2-0 win over outclassed Rangers in their Champions League Group E match at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

Former Arsenal striker Henry put Barca ahead in the sixth minute when he bundled the ball in at the far post with a little help from his arm. Messi also pounced just before the break after Ronaldinho had sliced through the Scottish team's defence.

The win left the Catalans firmly in control of the group with 10 points from four games.

Rangers remain second with seven points, one ahead of Olympique Lyon, despite suffering their first defeat. Walter Smith's men are assured of at least a place in the UEFA Cup.

"This was a game we could have won 5-0 or 6-0," Barca coach Frank Rijkaard told a news conference.

"But in general I'm very happy with the result. This was an important step forward."

Smith was philosophical about the defeat.

"We're always disappointed to lose but we can't have any complaints given the way the game went," he said.

"We are delighted we will be playing European football after Christmas, given how hard this group was."

Rangers had never won in Spain against Spanish opposition and that did not look like changing once Barcelona had taken the lead after Ronaldinho picked out the unmarked Messi in the area with a clever lofted pass.

The Argentine headed across the face of the goal towards the far post where the sliding Henry scored.

Barca almost extended their lead when midfielder Andres Iniesta skimmed the post with a curling shot after Messi had surged towards the Rangers area.

REFLEX SAVE

Ronaldinho went even closer when he turned and shot from the edge of the area but keeper Allan McGregor produced a great one-handed reflex save to tip the ball over the bar.

It was only a matter of time before Barca claimed their second.

Ronaldinho exchanged a lightning one-two with Messi on the edge of the area, had a toe-poke shot blocked by McGregor and the Argentine was on hand to side-foot into the net.

It was one-way traffic after that with Barca passing the ball around at leisure, pinning Rangers back and only failing to extend their advantage because of fine goalkeeping by McGregor.

Xavi went close with a searing shot that took a deflection at the start of the second half and Messi was denied by McGregor's foot after he nutmegged David Weir.

Rangers's only chances came in the closing minutes, Jean-Claude Darcheville having a powerful free kick saved by Victor Valdes and Nacho Novo striking a well-timed volley at the Barca keeper.

(Writing by Simon Baskett in Madrid, editing by Rex Gowar)


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