A crashing Lionel Messi drive in the first half and a late second from the same player gave FC Barcelona the victory over FC København which many expected, yet the 2-0 scoreline reflected a night of frustration and nerves.
The Danish visitors showed intelligence, patience and enormous stamina to stay in a game in which they occasionally looked ready to be swamped. Despite the fact that Daniel Alves hit a post late on, the more emblematic chance came when William Kvist attempted to lob stand-in Barcelona goalkeeper José Pinto from near the halfway line and almost succeeded. Only when Messi bundled in during added time to add to his fine opener were the points secured, lifting the hosts above FCK to the Group D summit.
Both sides gave early indications of how the absorbing match would develop. Having promised he would open the scoring, David Villa took just over three minutes to come within millimetres of doing so, turning and clipping an effort onto the crossbar from Messi's pass. Despite Andrés Iniesta taking almost complete control of the direction and tempo of the match, FCK proved that they had completely understood coach Ståle Solbakken's game plan, using every counterattack with thought, pace and confidence. It was the pattern for the entire night.
Messi had already headed into the hands of goalkeeper Johan Wiland from close range when he thundered in the opener on 18 minutes. Iniesta found an island of space in busy waters and slipped a nice pass to the Argentinian international, who took his tally to 28 goals from 47 UEFA Champions League outings from outside the area. His 29th would follow later.
When Iniesta pulled off a footballing Houdini trick to escape from Martin Vingaard and Claudemir it nearly brought the house down, but there was no second goal to put the game to bed. Unsurprisingly, FCK endeavoured to punish that fact as César Santin and, in particular, Dame N'Doye worked ceaselessly to find a surprise equaliser.
Alves, Messi and Villa all missed chances and, almost inevitably, they were nearly caught with a sucker punch when N'Doye used his power to shrug off Carles Puyol midway through the second half and unleash a blistering effort which beat Pinto – in for the ill Víctor Valdés – before cannoning off the bar. Santin then headed the rebound wide and Alves somehow slid in a block to prevent substitute Christián Bolaños scoring from five metres out as the scene was set for Messi to strike again.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.