FC Barcelona overwhelmed Panathinaikos FC with a glittering display of attacking football to move into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.
Any hope Panathinaikos had of a repeat of the first game between these sides - the goalless draw in Athens - was dashed inside the first minute as Mark van Bommel scored a scintillating opener. Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi then took over, with the Cameroonian registering a hat-trick and the 18-year-old Argentinian capping a magnificent individual performance with Barça's third in the 34th minute. Barcelona now need just a draw in one of their remaining games to win Group C while Panathinaikos are locked on four points with Werder Bremen and Udinese Calcio.
Frank Rijkaard's plan to strike early in order to open up the game worked perfectly as Andrés Iniesta collected the ball in midfield before lifting it over the head of Sotirios Leontiou for Van Bommel to run on to - the Dutchman supplied a sublime finish as he lobbed Mario Galinović from the edge of the area as the goalkeeper advanced.
With Barça in such irrepressible form a second goal was inevitable and it arrived after 13 minutes when Iniesta picked out Eto'o in the box with an accurate centre and the No9 rose unmarked to head into the top corner of the Panathinaikos net. Included in the starting XI as Ludovic Giuly was rested, Messi more than repaid his coach's faith as he struck the third on 33 minutes, albeit with the help of some indifferent defending.
Filippos Darlas was the culprit, failing to find Galinović with a weak header under pressure from the starlet. Messi did the rest, shrugging off the defender before turning the ball in after delightfully flicking it over the goalkeeper's head from close range. Panathinaikos's best chance of the half came in the 38th minute as Anthony Šeric's cross from the left was met by Flavio Conceição, the former Real Madrid CF midfielder producing a fine save from Víctor Valdés.
Fresh from Saturday's 5-0 defeat of Real Sociedad de Fútbol, the Camp Nou crowd were being treated to another feast of attacking football, and they were on their feet again as the fourth arrived six minutes before the break. Messi was involved again, careering down the right before finding Ronaldinho on the edge of the area. The Brazilian looked up, and rolled the ball sideways to Eto'o who hammered in his second from eleven metres.
Rijkaard's tactical plan to make his midfield trio more attacking had worked perfectly as Xavi Hernández sat deep to allow Iniesta and Van Bommel to flourish. However, it was Messi who stole the show in a devastating opening 45 minutes, teasing Darlas continually and generally having a youthful hand in the majority of the Blaugrana's moves.
Indeed, Messi created the fifth and best goal in the 64th minute, breaking clear in midfield before cutting a reverse pass to Eto'o. The Cameroonian did the rest, racing forward and curling a brilliant shot from the edge of the box over Galinović and into the opposite corner. The second half was something of a damage limitation exercise for the visitors, although it would not have flattered Barcelona had Galinović not superbly saved Ronaldinho's 71st-minute free-kick.
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