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10.01.2007 11:45

"We were in control from start to finish"

Rijkaard had expected a harder game than he got, and was ultimately delighted with a game that "we were in control of from start to finish".

Playing sides from the lower leagues is not always as easy as it might appear on paper because small clubs are always especially motivated for games against the big guns. But Barça made certain that Alavés weren't going to spring any nasty surprises and dominated proceedings from start to finish, as Rijkaard himself has said. "The game was not as tough as I had expected, mainly because of the way Barça controlled possession of the ball. They had a few counter attacks but there were no moments when I felt we were struggling".

Barça played well all game but were unlucky in front of goal until Saviola came to the rescue in the second half. As Rijkaard puts it "you should always be able to make your superiority count through goals. In the first half we failed to take our chances and if you don't score, you suffer for it. But in the end the team worked well and got the job done."

Impressed with Saviola and Ezquerro

Saviola and Ezquerro were given first team opportunities tonight, and things worked out especially well for the Argentinian, who was on target twice. Says Rijkaard "every player is important, they all have their place and their presence. I am proud that we have such an extensive squad and there are still other players who have yet to come back".

But pressed for more details about his impressions of the two frontmen, the Dutchman said "I am so pleased for Javier. He has a great attitude because he does not always get to play and did well to cope with 90 minutes. I always talk to my players and especially when they need match practice. But at half time he told me he felt fine, and could carry on, and he was right because two goals are good not just for himself, but for the team as well."

As for Ezquerro, Rijkaard said "Santi started the game very well, he was well focused, but he had some bad luck. All he can do is keep working and the goals will come."

No news from the stands
Frank Rijkaard claims that he had no idea about what was going on in the stands at the Mendizorroza. Several supporters made their way to the president's box to voice their discontent with Dimitri Piterman, but the Barça coach says his players were focused on the game and hadn't noticed anything untoward going on. "We did notice some noise towards the end of the game" he added. "But our attention was not swayed by anything going on in the stands."

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