FC Barcelona continued their UEFA Champions League goal spree as they confirmed themselves as Group C winners with an impressive victory at Sporting Clube de Portugal.
With both sides having secured progress on Matchday 4, first place was at stake in Lisbon and first-half strikes from Thierry Henry – on his 100th appearance in the competition – and Gerard Piqué were followed by a Lionel Messi effort early in the second period as Barça took command. Miguel Veloso and Liedson briefly threatened to haul Sporting back into contention but Marco Caneira's own goal swiftly made it 4-2 and substitute Bojan Krkić added a fifth from the penalty spot. It was the second time in three UEFA Champions League matches that Barcelona had scored five goals.
Josep Guardiola may have changed the visitors' lineup but Barça's famed slick passing game was not disrupted and it was quickly apparent why they had registered more goals in their first four group games than any other team. Xavi Hernández's beautiful pass gave Eidur Gudjohnsen the first sight of goal, but the Icelandic international failed to control. Moments later Xavi curled a free-kick against the woodwork after Messi had been felled by Anderson Polga and it was no surprise when the Blaugrana took the lead on 14 minutes. Henry fed Messi on the right and the Argentinian brushed aside Daniel Carriço before returning the compliment for the France forward to tap in.
Shaken, Sporting went two goals behind three minutes later, although this time Barcelona were indebted to good fortune. Xavi's left-wing cross found Gudjohnsen at the back post and the ball dropped perfectly for Piqué to poke in via the retreating Polga. Carriço then made a fine last-ditch tackle to deny Messi as the Spanish Liga leaders threatened a repeat of their devastating first-half display at FC Basel 1893 on Matchday 3. On the half-hour Aleksandr Hleb blazed a left-foot shot over and, instead of becoming restless as their side chased shadows, the home fans began to applaud the quality of Barcelona's play.
Four minutes into the second period the away team broke through again, Daniel Alves playing in Messi with a quick free-kick and the livewire calmly side-footing past Rui Patrício. Víctor Valdés was finally called into action in the 55th minute, diving to save after Piqué had diverted Liedson's cross towards his own goal, yet ten minutes later the local supporters did have something to cheer as Veloso stepped up to curl a delightful free-kick into the top corner. A minute later the stands exploded with noise again as Paulo Bento's men continued their unlikely comeback. Liedson pounced on Rafael Márquez's misdirected header to fire in and become Sporting's all-time leading scorer in UEFA competition with 19 goals.
Sixty seconds later, thoughts of a Sporting revival were abruptly curtailed, Caneira slicing over his own goalkeeper as he tried to clear from the lurking Sergi Busquets. With 17 minutes left Barça scored again, Patrício colliding with Bojan to earn a red card and his replacement Tiago narrowly failing to stop Bojan's penalty as he dived to his left. Derlei almost replied again but Valdés produced a stupendous save from the Brazilian's close-range header to wrap up an entertaining evening of attacking football.