Champions League

Leverkusen 1 - Barcelona 2

Bayer: Butt; Zivkovic, Lucio, Ramelow, Placente; Balitsch; Schneider, Bastürk, Babic (Bierofka 65'); Brdaric (Neuville 54'), Berbatov (Simac 83'). 4-1-3-2.
Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Reiziger, Cocu, Fernando Navarro; Gabri (Riquelme 46'), Rochemback; Mendieta (Saviola 46'), Xavi, Motta (Overmars 74'); Kluivert. 4-2-3-1.

1-0. 39. Berbatov. Rose above Reiziger to head corner wide of Bonano.
1-1. 48. Saviola. Took return pass from Riquelme to turn ball past Butt.
1-2. 87. Overmars. Cut in past Ramelow and beat keeper with low shot.

Barcelona were the only Spanish side to win on the opening day of the second league phase, although they had to come from behind against last year's runners up Bayer Leverkusen to do so. Van Gaal lined up with six natural midfielders in his side, with Cocu covering for the injured De Boer in the centre of defence, and Xavi playing further forward than his normal role. With Saviola and Riquelme both on the bench that only left Kluivert up front, although the manager justified his unusual line up arguing that German sides do a lot of running early on and he wanted to absorb the early pressure.

The Germans started strongly though and Brdaric got the ball in the net in the second minute after Bonano had palmed out Bobic's header only to see it ruled out for offside. The Catalans came close to scoring when Basturk cleared Navarro's header off the line following a corner, but Reiziger was lucky not to give away a penalty when the referee turned down Bayer's appeals for a foul on Berbatov. Babic almost caught out Bonano with a long free kick, and five minutes before the break Klaus Toppmöller's side took the lead when Berbatov rose above the defence to head home Babic's corner.

At half time Van Gaal put into effect the second part of his plan, bringing on Saviola and Riquelme for Mendieta and Gabri. Commentators were sceptical, but within three minutes his side were level, Saviola winning the ball in midfield and feeding Riquelme, who returned the ball to his compatriot for him to roll the ball under Butt.

A quarter of an hour later the visitors had a chance to take the lead when Placente brought down Kluivert in the area, but Butt dived to save Riquelme's kick. Babic shot over the bar for the Germans, and Saviola replied with a jinking run which ended with a shot just wide of goal. Then the Dutch manager made his final move, bringing on Marc Overmars for the last quarter of an hour. Barcelona by now were on top, with Puyol making good runs down the right wing and Saviola, Riquelme and Kluivert all causing problems for the defence.

Then with three minutes to go a team move ended with Kluivert finding Overmars on the left flank, and the Dutch winger cut past his man to shoot low past Butt for the winner. It was a record ninth win in a row for the Spaniards, and gave them the best possible start before their second game with Newcastle in a fortnight's time. After the match Van Gaal's tactics were heavily criticised in the press. But the truth is that they won, so maybe his ideas weren't so bad after all?