FC Barcelona cruised into the UEFA Champions League round of 16 as Group D winners on Wednesday courtesy of a comfortable victory at Panathinaikos FC.
After Djibril Cissé missed an early chance for Panathinaikos, Pedro Rodríguez broke the deadlock in the 27th minute of a game the visitors dominated. Further goals in the second half from Lionel Messi, who scored for the tenth game in succession for club and country, and Pedro, coupled with FC København's 1-0 loss at FC Rubin Kazan, means Barcelona cannot be caught and Panathinaikos are now out of Europe regardless of what happens on Matchday 6.
Looking to lift themselves off the foot of the section on new coach Jesualdo Ferreira's debut, the Greek outfit seemed content to watch their opponents weave their entrancing passing patterns in front of them and wait for a chance on the counter. And it was newly appointed captain Cissé who could have put them ahead when he was sent clear by Lazaros Christodoulopoulos's superb pass, but the Frenchman was denied by a smart save from Víctor Valdés.
Not to be outdone, home goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas then tipped a vicious Adriano shot over the crossbar as Barça sought to step up a gear. They continued to press and the home team's diligent rearguard was finally undone by Daniel Alves, who threaded a neat pass through for Pedro to accelerate into the penalty area and beat Tzorvas via a clinical right-footed finish. The visitors were controlling more than 70% of possession, and Tzorvas was called into action twice in the space of a minute before half-time to save from Pedro and David Villa.
The Greens' goalkeeper continued to do his best to thwart Barcelona and Adriano in particular after half-time, acrobatically palming away two powerful shots from the Barça left-back. But he could do nothing to deny the visitors two minutes beyond the hour mark as Andrés Iniesta played a reverse pass to Adriano, who squared for Messi to double the lead. Iniesta was again involved in Pedro's second goal, his left-wing cross following a clever Alves chip being slotted in from close range to seal an impressive win.