It took an exceptional performance from Andrés Iniesta to pip Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández to the UEFA.com Player Rater Top Player honour, but that was a measure of FC Barcelona's 5-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg victory over FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
So many of Josep Guardiola's players – including Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué and Víctor Valdés – hit personal high notes at the Camp Nou that there were moments when Barcelona looked unstoppable. From Iniesta's goal within two minutes and his assist for Daniel Alves, through Pique's second goal in two matches and Seydou Keita's thunderous fourth, to Xavi's penalty-box reactions for the fifth, the display must have had neutrals drooling with appreciation.
Midfielder Iniesta, who celebrated his strike with a thumb-sucking gesture in honour of his new baby daughter, told UEFA.com: "
What a great week this has been: scoring a goal, helping the team win a really tricky match and becoming a father – you can guess how happy I feel. I'm a team player and the goal was to try and get the win but I celebrated it for her."
However, the Spanish champions were still able to find flaws in their work – which hints that there may be even more to come. "We had some great phases in the match when we hit top form and this was quite a complete performance, but Shakhtar had more than enough chances to score another goal or two which has to be a warning about the challenge in the return leg," said Iniesta.
Iniesta will not feature in Donetsk on Tuesday thanks to the booking he received just before Shakhtar made it 3-1, but fellow midfielder Xavi, who added an assist to his second strike of this UEFA Champions League campaign, will do. Having seen almost everything in his 12-year top-level career, the 31-year-old believes this scoreline should ensure a semi-final against either Real Madrid CF or Tottenham Hotspur FC, with Madrid seeming more likely given their 4-0 first-leg triumph.
"In football just about anything can happen, but we'll try to ensure that this four-goal win is enough," he told UEFA.com. "Shakhtar are very talented, particularly from their creative midfielders through to their strikers. They are dangerous and they showed their skill on the counterattack. They are tough opponents and very well organised defensively.
There were parts of our display which were terrific – perhaps not quite worthy of the 5-1 scoreline – but we dominated them and were clinical in the second half."
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