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Messi sends Barcelona top of Champions League group

20 October 2010 23:09

MADRID (AFP) - Lionel Messi scored his third and fourth Champions League goals of the season with a brace as Spanish champions Barcelona defeated FC Copenhagen 2-0 at Camp Nou on Wednesday to leapfrog the Danes into top spot in Champions League Group D.

Argentine Messi scored a fine long range opener on 19 minutes and a stoppage time tap-in as Barcelona inflicted a first group defeat on surprise package Copenhagen and Barca go top a point above the Danish side who had won their first two group games.

It was far from comfortable for the 2009 champions who had some hairy moments at 1-0 as they failed to kill off the match.

"We failed to kill off the match and a 1-0 carries a certain danger but the most important thing is our game was back on song," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "It is just a simple case of us not putting the ball in the back of the net."

Guardiola had praised his side following their 2-1 home win over Valencia on Saturday but was forced into changes with first choice goalkeeper Victor Valdes ruled out with fever.

The 34-year-old Jose Manuel Pinto, normally only used in the Kings Cup matches to give Valdes a break, was drafted in for a rare appearance against the Danes.

Midfielder Xavi Hernandez continues to struggle with tendonitis and began on the substitutes bench after complaining of pain following the Valencia win.

In Xavi's absence Argentine international Javier Mascherano, a summer signing from Liverpool, was given a chance to stake a claim for a first team spot after being a bit-part player at the club.

With four minutes gone David Villa, who had scored in Barcelona's two other group matches, rattled the crossbar with a chip to send a warning to the visitors.

Messi then had a shot saved by goalkeeper Johan Wiland but there was nothing the Swede could do about the opening goal on 19 minutes.

A neat passing move ended with Andres Iniesta feeding Messi who produced a thumping left-footed finish into the top corner for his third Champions League goal of the campaign.

It was the first Copenhagen had conceded in this season's competition and ruined their game plan to defend deep and wait for a chance on the counter attack.

Messi had the ball in the net again on 37 minutes after great work from marauding centre-back Gerard Pique but the goal was ruled out for offside.

After the break Barcelona pushed for the second goal with Copenhagen hoping to conjure up a goal with a set-piece or counter attack.

As so often this season Barcelona failed to score a second goal to kill off the match and Guardiola was pacing up and down the touchline in frustration.

On 67 minutes Senegalese forward Dame N'Doye, who has scored in both of his side's group matches, showed terrific control to deceive Carles Puyol and his spectacular volley crashed against the crossbar.

Brazilian striker Cesar Santin looked certain to score from the rebound but somehow headed wide to let Barca off the hook.

Guardiola responded by introducing Xavi and Spanish international team-mate Pedro Rodriguez off the substitutes bench six minutes later.

Barca had blitzed Panathinaikos 5-1 at Camp Nou in their first Champions League home match but found the going much tougher against a well-drilled Copenhagen outfit.

With three minutes remaining midfielder William Kvist had a 35-yard drive tipped over by Pinto while Dani Alves rattled the post in a frantic ending.

Messi scored his second in the dying seconds of the match after a mis-hit cross from Eric Abidal landed at his feet.

Barcelona's next match is a trip to Copenhagen on November 2 and then away at Panathinaikos before concluding with a home match against Russians Rubin Kazan.

Despite the loss Copenhagen have a great chance of qualifying for the knockout phase for the first time in their history lying four points ahead of Rubin Kazan and five points ahead of Panathinaikos.

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