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Barcelona flex muscles without overwhelming Plzeň

FC Barcelona 2-0 FC Viktoria Plzeň
The Catalan giants dominated, mustering 17 shots to Plzeň's none, but had only Andrés Iniesta's early goal to show for it until David Villa's late strike.

Barcelona flex muscles without overwhelming Plzeň
Barcelona flex muscles without overwhelming Plzeň ©UEFA.com

FC Barcelona dominated throughout at the Camp Nou but left it late before securing a 2-0 victory over FC Viktoria Plzeň which keeps them locked in a battle for the Group H leadership with AC Milan.

Andrés Iniesta's tenth-minute opener and a late effort from David Villa, set up by the ever-dangerous Lionel Messi, ultimately dealt with the Czech title holders. Yet Pavel Vrba can be proud of his team's dogged and intelligent resistance, keeping their heads above water even when the waves of attacks looked likely to overwhelm them.

Barcelona started with purpose, zip and some electric passing movements, traits wonderfully put together to fashion their breakthrough. Iniesta exchanged a couple of one-twos with Messi but there was still lots to do when he received the ball again just inside the area. His right foot flicked the ball between two defenders; his left clipped it past goalkeeper Marek Čech.

It was just what Josep Guardiola had requested before the game, stressing the need to avoid complacency, to retain focus and hunger. And so it continued, yet for all their drive and endeavour, reward was not forthcoming. Villa fired over after Iniesta's tremendous trickery on the byline sent František Rajtoral this way and that, and the darting Messi was denied only by Čech's knees before the half-hour mark.

Credit, though, to Plzeň. Whenever they did win possession – and it was not often – the visitors would push three, sometimes four, attackers high up the pitch. While the visiting Czech fans chanted defiance their team embodied it.

Frustrations grew for Barcelona when Messi fired an outstanding free-kick off the frame of the goal with the last action of the half, and the hosts began the second period with the urgency of champions wishing to deal with a niggling situation. Messi led the charge, and 15 minutes after the break he skipped past three defenders and dinked an effort off the outside of the post.

Home nerves tautened when Milan Petržela's cross caused confusion between Daniel Alves and Víctor Valdés, though the keeper reacted with alacrity. Messi's one-man quest for the second goal continued when he slipped through the defence, flicked the ball over Čech only for David Limberský to calmly intervene.

Finally the pressure told eight minutes from time, Villa slotting in after another Messi break had been smothered. Barcelona could breathe easily again, allowing Guardiola to give Isaac Cuenca his competitive debut in the final seconds.