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FC Barcelona bounced back from the brink of elimination when the evening started to take charge of Group F thanks to a Xavi Hernández-inspired victory over FC Internazionale Milano.
Gerard Piqué's fourth UEFA Champions League goal and Pedro Rodríguez's ninth of the season in all competitions accounted for José Mourinho's Serie Leaders as the hosts dominated the chances, possession, passing and, of course, the scoring. The result established Barcelona as group leaders and gave them the security of knowing that only a loss by more than 1-0 in Kyiv against Dynamo on Matchday 6 would prevent them going to the knockout rounds.
There had been a marvellous precursor to an exceptional first half when Samuel Eto'o's name was read out by the Camp Nou announcer. Despite the change of clubs and his potential to damage the European champions' challenge, 95,000 Barcelona fans rose to their feet and roared their thanks for two UEFA Champions League titles won during his time here. That spontaneous show of respect, though, was all the joy the Inter striker would get. The holders laid on their most complete performance, by some distance, since that fabulous day in May when they defeated Manchester United FC to lift the trophy in Rome. If that night's goalscorer, Lionel Messi, and Barça's record signing, Inter old boy Zlatan Ibrahimović, started on the bench because of thigh injuries, it did not matter one jot to Josep Guardiola's men.
Their first goal came straight from the training ground. Xavi bent a corner to the near post, Thierry Henry flicked it on to the far, and Piqué bullishly held off Thiago Motta to stab home. Nothing that Motta or Esteban Cambiasso came up with could stifle the outstanding Xavi, and with Andrés Iniesta his lively support act, the Blaugrana put on a spectacle. Xavi bounced a free-kick off the roof of Júlio César's net before the midfielder helped to create surely one of the goals of the season. Iniesta clipped an inside pass to Xavi, whose cushioned volley was measured to land between two defenders and meet the run of Daniel Alves. Already spectacular, the move got even better when Alves dinked the ball to the far post and Pedro raced in to volley home.
Only a Diego Milito drive and a momentary lapse of concentration from Víctor Valdés, which allowed Dejan Stanković to chip just over the bar, signalled the Italian champions' involvement. Either side of the break, Seydou Keita cracked a header into the arms of César and an even better nod towards the keeper's right-hand post from Xavi brought a superb stop. Indeed, the Brazilian was having to compete with Xavi for the man of the match accolades and dived at full stretch to turn away an Alves free-kick in the 67th minute. The key to the holders' supremacy was crisp, one-touch pass and move football which bewildered Inter, made them look sluggish and evoked the best of Barça's treble-winning campaign last term.
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