FC Barcelona emerged unscathed from a difficult examination by FC Dynamo Kyiv to claim a comeback victory that took them through to the UEFA Champions League first knockout round as Group F winners.
The holders were on the ropes at a chilly Valeriy Lobanovskiy Stadium when Artem Milevskiy headed Dynamo in front inside two minutes, but they fought back to level through Xavi Hernández just past the half-hour before Lionel Messi's imperious late winner removed all doubt. Victory confirmed top spot for Barcelona ahead of FC Internazionale Milano and denied Dynamo a place in the UEFA Europa League as they finished bottom.
Josep Guardiola's men had not conceded away from home in this season's UEFA Champions League, but Dynamo struck with the first attack of the match. After Gerard Piqué's foul, Andriy Shevchenko swung in a free-kick from the left and Milevskiy's glancing header at the near post caught Víctor Valdés unawares, the ball squirming from the goalkeeper's grasp and into the net. At this stage Dynamo were provisionally in second place.
However, Olexandr Shovkovskiy was not having a much easier night in the Dynamo goal and his miscued clearance almost handed Messi a 13th-minute equaliser. The goalkeeper, though, quickly recovered and dived to push away the Argentinian's left-footed shot. Barça began to monopolise possession, and by midway through the first-half they had enjoyed 80 per cent of the ball, though they were struggling to create clear opportunities. Messi started to drop deep in an attempt to pull the strings and he had a shot deflected wide after a typically surging run.
On 33 minutes, the Blaugrana pressure finally told. Messi sent Eric Abidal away on the left and the full-back's low cross allowed Xavi to guide in from close range. Barça continued to move the ball well and on the cusp of the interval Daniel Alves tested Shovkovskiy with a cross-shot after a flowing move. Dynamo's need to set the pace in the second period meant they were vulnerable to counterattacks and Messi was denied a certain goal by Ognjen Vukojević's alert interception. The home side responded well, and Shevchenko delivered another free-kick that Leandro Almeida headed into the side-netting.
Dynamo, encouraged by a vociferous crowd, tried manfully to shape openings, but struggled against a Barcelona rearguard back to its best after their initial uncertainty. In fact the holders looked more likely to score, with only desperate defensive blocks denying Messi, Alves and Andrés Iniesta in quick succession. Dynamo's last throw of the dice was to bring on Miloš Ninković for the more defensive Gérson Magrão in an attempt to wrest control. With just four minutes of normal time left, though, Barça confirmed their superiority, Messi stepping up to curl a magnificent free-kick past Shovkovskiy and end Dynamo's European campaign.