FC Barcelona have one foot in the semi-finals, with Real Madrid CF their likely opponents, after soaring to a wonderful 5-1 victory over FC Shakhtar Donetsk that left the visitors ruing a hatful of first-half misses.
Everyone danced to Lionel Messi's beat but the goals carried the signatures of Andrés Iniesta, Daniel Alves, Gerard Piqué, Seydou Keita and Xavi Hernández. Nevertheless, Mircea Lucescu will know the opportunities his side wasted, plus Yaroslav Rakitskiy's second-half goal, meant that until Xavi wrapped things up four minutes from time the tie remained tantalising.
The quarter-final first leg was absorbing from the off. The Ukrainian titleholders were already beginning to move the ball with slick menace when Messi flew off on a trademark dribble. Amid the trail of destruction he left, Iniesta seized possession and finished right-footed past Andriy Pyatov.
There were just two minutes on the clock yet Lucescu's side play with the quick-passing verve of the Spanish champions and reacted with such ferocity that they might have scored three before Barça increased their advantage. Four minutes after Iniesta's breakthrough, Willian cut in from the left and despite the improbable angle forced a brilliant save from Víctor Valdés.
Luiz Adriano then had two one-on-one chances against the overworked home goalkeeper, coming second best on both occasions, before Valdés raced out to clear brilliantly from the Brazilian striker as Alves horribly misplaced a pass. His excellence earned him a bit of luck, too, with Willian volleying just wide of Valdés' vacated goal.
Messi in particular hauled Barcelona back into the game, tirelessly dragging Shakhtar's markers this way and that until Iniesta had time and space to clip a pass which intersected Alves' perfectly timed sprint beyond the offside trap. He controlled on the run and prodded past Pyatov.
The danger, for Barcelona, was that the Pitmen played with blistering pace up front and, missing Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal, Sergio Busquets was tested to the limit at sweeper. However, the hosts emerged after the restart back at full tilt. Messi and David Villa had attempts on goal before Piqué, taking advantage of a well-worked Xavi corner, drove home his second goal in as many games eight minutes in.
His effort took a deflection off Rakitskiy but there was redemption for the Shakhtar defender when he directed in Darijo Srna's free-kick on the hour. Following immediately after the booking of Iniesta, which means he misses the second leg, there was a momentary hush at the Camp Nou. But only a moment. Within 60 seconds Messi's run and glided pass allowed Keita thrash into the top corner to the rapture of the home crowd.
Still Shakhtar responded, Luiz Adriano smashing a shot off Valdés' right-hand post, with the ball bouncing back to the keeper. Messi had a goal ruled offside before Xavi rounded things off, in the process all but ending the slender ambitions of the visitors.
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