Lionel Messi scored two goals in the last five minutes of play to lift FC Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk tonight on the second date of the UEFA Champions League’s group phase.

Barça had a mediocre performance, particularly in the first half. Pep Guardiola’s men had most of the possession but their attacking play lacked speed and clarity. Shakhtar had already threatened early on with their counter attacks and eventually opened the score right before the end of the first period when Ilsinho took advantage of a defensive misunderstanding to beat Valdés’s goal.

Guardiola had decided to leave Leo Messi on the bench at the start of the match, but the need to turn the game around forced him to bring the Argentinian star on after 60 minutes. Messi’s presence on the pitch provided spark to Barça’s play, and the team started to create better scoring chances. The goal did not arrive until the 87th minute, when a mistake by Shakhtar’s keeper found Leo Messi on hand to pick up the ball and score the equalizer. Five minutes later a fine pass by Xavi found Messi clear on the left side of the box; Leo lifted the ball brilliantly over the keeper and into the net to get his second goal and give his side the three points.

Barcelona sit at the top of the Group C table with six points from two games. Coming up next for them is an exciting league clash with Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

FC Barcelona defeated city rivals RCD Espanyol 2-1 yesterday at the Estadi Olimpic on the fifth date of the Spanish first division league.

It was an exciting and eventful derby, marred by the incidents taking place in the stands during the second half, due to which the match had to be stopped for ten minutes. Barça dictated the play from the start and played good attacking football, but both their lack of proper finishing and defensive fragility resulted in the first half ending 1-0 to Espanyol thanks to a goal scored by Coro in his team’s only chance in the period.

Espanyol had been reduced to ten men (midfielder Nené was sent off) right before the break, which meant that Barça’s domination was made even stronger in the second half. Eto’o and Bojan were brought on to put all of the team’s available attacking assets on display. Henry picked up a through ball from Xavi and equalized after 76 minutes, and in the last minute of added time a penalty was given for a challenge on Samuel Eto’o. Leo Messi, who had been Barça’s most threatening player all through the game, converted the penalty kick to bag his fourth league goal and give Pep Guardiola’s side the three points.

Barcelona have now obtained four wins in a row and will next take on Shakhtar Donetsk on the Champions League’s second date on Wednesday.

FC Barcelona beat Real Betis (3-2) tonight at the Camp Nou to claim their second win in the 2008/09 Spanish league campaign.

What looked like a placid game for Pep Guardiola’s men in the first half, which finished 2-0 (both goals scored by Samuel Eto’o), turned into a tough affair in the second period after lapses in Barça’s defensive concentration allowed Betis to come back. Monzón scored from a free kick and José Mari made it 2-2 with 23 minutes to go; Gudjohnsen, Bojan and Busquets then came on as substitutes and helped Barcelona to push forward again; finally in the 80th minute a cross by Daniel Alves was fired into the net by Gudjohnsen, securing the three points for the home side.

Leo Messi was on the pitch for the whole game and played a role in Barça’s two first-half strikes; he provided Samuel Eto’o with the ball that led to the opening goal, and then created the Cameroonian’s second with a fine dribble and pass. After the break, Messi continued to participate in Barça’s best attacking moves, despite being repeatedly fouled by the Betis defenders.

After having grabbed three straight wins, Barça will try to extend their good streak of results in the city derby against Espanyol to be played on the weekend.

The third date of the 2008/09 Spanish football league saw FC Barcelona claim their first win in the competition as they crushed (6-1) Sporting Gijon away from home this evening.

The crowd at the Molinón stadium witnessed a one-sided game as Pep Guardiola’s men dictated the play from the start to the end. The first half finished 2-0 for Barça with strikes from Xavi and Eto’o. Right after the break Jorge made it 3-0 with an own goal, but Sporting immediately scored through Maldonado and put Barça in trouble for some minutes. However, the away side soon regained control of the situation and ended up getting three more goals.

Lionel Messi, who played the entire game, was given freedom to change his position across the attacking line. The Argentine star used his speed and ability to find ways through the Sporting defence, linking up especially well with Andrés Iniesta, who had an excellent performance. Messi was particularly brilliant in the second period, when he gave a fantastic assist to Iniesta for Barça’s fourth strike and then scored the team’s last two goals himself, taking a close-range volley in the fifth and a header in the sixth to finish off two great team moves.

The following league round will be played in mid-week, with Barça facing Betis at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

You can watch Leo Messi’s goals in the game against Sporting Gijón here.

FC Barcelona got a deserved win (3-1) over Sporting Lisbon tonight at the Camp Nou on the first date of the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

The game looked under Barça’s control almost the whole time, with the visiting side finding few opportunities to threat Víctor Valdés’s goal. Rafael Márquez scored in the first half and after the break Samuel Eto’o (pen.) made it 2-0 for the hosts on the hour. A goal scored by Sporting centre-back Tonel from a set piece with 18 minutes left generated some tension, but Barça immediately regained control of the situation and secured the win when Xavi scored the third goal after an excellent pass from Iniesta. Leo Messi played the entire game and was as incisive as usual; either starting from the right side of the attack or acting as a centre forward (the position Lionel played in for the last part of the game), Messi’s dribbling abilities created trouble to Sporting’s defence and got him close to scoring in a couple of good chances.

Barça head the Champions League’s group C table and will travel to Ukraine to play against Shakhtar Donetsk on the second date of the group in two weeks’ time. This weekend Pep Guardiola’s men will face Sporting Gijon away in the domestic league.

The fans at the Camp Nou were left disappointed as the first Spanish league game of the season played at the stadium ended in a 1-1 draw between FC Barcelona and Racing Santander last night.

Barça had the possession, attacked tirelessly from both sides of the field and created a good number of chances, especially in the second half. However, their lack of clinical finishing made them pay when Racing got the equalizing goal after 77 minutes in the visiting side’s first scoring opportunity in the game. Lionel Messi, who started the match on the bench and was brought on in the second half, had scored the opening goal in the 70th minute through a penalty. The Argentinian star’s presence on the pitch increased the speed and danger of his side’s attacks.

After this result, Pep Guardiola’s team has only got one point from two games, which is the club’s worst start to a domestic league season since 1973. Next up the Camp Nou will see Barça’s Champions League debut against Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday.

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