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Daniel Alves paid tribute to FC Barcelona's pass masters after the UEFA Champions League holders negotiated a safe passage to the knockout rounds of the competition.
The Blaugrana recovered from the shock of Artem Milevskiy's second-minute goal for a fired-up FC Dynamo Kyiv to top Group F thanks to strikes from Xavi Hernández and Lionel Messi. "We knew it would be difficult, and it was very cold out there too," Alves told uefa.com. "But after going a goal down, we managed to find our balance and get plenty of possession, and because of that we produced a great performance in the end." The statistics back up Alves's comments: the visitors had 78 per cent of the ball on a harsh winter's night at the Valeriy Lobanovskiy Stadium.
Raising their game
However, the 26-year-old right-back, who supported Barcelona's attack throughout with a succession of trademark storming runs, acknowledges the hard work that lies ahead if Josep Guardiola's men are to retain their European crown. "We expect the same as ever in this competition, just like last year," he said. "The knockout stages will be difficult. We need to maintain and raise our level if we're going to go on right to the end."
'Group of Death'
The Brazilian international also recognised the quality of Barcelona's opponents in what club president Joan Laporta had dubbed the "group of death" – all four sides had a chance of qualification before kick-off on Matchday 6. "When you come up against national champions, it's always difficult," said Alves. "We knew they had to be strong to win their leagues, and you have to give them a lot of respect for that." Indeed, the Catalan team had not taken any of the competition lightly according to their defender. "We worked just as hard against Dynamo as we would in any UEFA Champions League match. We gave a focused, and an excellent, display."
'Best in the world'
Alves's compatriot Betão reflected on what might have been after an ultimately frustrating campaign in which Dynamo let slip leads against FC Internazionale Milano and Barça. "We played well in the group and we had opportunities to get more victories, especially in the home game against Inter, so it's a bit of a disappointment," the 26-year-old defender said. The blow of losing to another late goal, after the 2-1 defeat by Inter on Matchday 4, was hard to take. "Barcelona had a lot of the game, but with five minutes to go we thought we would end up with at least a draw," said Betão. "Unfortunately, Messi scored a great goal to show us why he is the best in the world."
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