Barca stroll into Champions League last 16

ATHENS, Nov 24, 2010 (AFP) - Barcelona reached the knockout phase of the Champions League and secured top spot in Group D in the process with a straightforward 3-0 victory at Panathinaikos on Wednesday.

Pedro Rodriguez scored in each half, either side of a Lionel Messi goal that bore all the hallmarks of the Catalans' feted patient approach play.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against Panathinaikos Athens. AFP

It was Barcelona's first away win in this season's competition and puts the 2009 champions four points clear of second-placed FC Copenhagen in the group with one match to play, while Panathinaikos are eliminated.

The Greek champions, who visit Copenhagen in their final group game, cannot even hope for the consolation of a place in the Europa League because they are four points behind third-placed Rubin Kazan.

Barca quickly settled into their familiar passing rhythm, but Panathinaikos posed a threat on the counter-attack and a mix-up between Victor Valdes and Gerard Pique almost let Luis Garcia in early on.

French international striker Djibril Cisse then burst clean through to reach a ball over the top but Valdes jutted out an arm to produce an important save.

It was not until the 26th minute that the visitors really threatened, with home goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas palming away Adriano's curler, but from the resulting corner Barca struck.

The ball was only half-cleared to the edge of the box and Dani Alves slipped a cleverly disguised pass down the inside-right channel to Pedro, who shot unerringly into the bottom-left corner.

The Spanish champions forced the Greeks back in the closing stages of the opening period and Tzorvas had to save at the feet of David Villa and then Pedro, before touching a bending effort from Villa to safety.

Tzorvas was summoned early in the second half, clawing away a dipping attempt from the enterprising Adriano, before Messi lashed wildly over the bar after a sublime through-ball by Alves.

Barca finally put some daylight between themselves and their opponents in the 62nd minute, and it was a goal of real quality.

After a characteristically neat build-up, Pedro found Andres Iniesta on the edge of the box and he slid the ball wide to the over-lapping Adriano, who centred for Messi to tap home from close range.

The goal sucked the life out of the home side and moments later Iniesta teed up Pedro to sweep home his second and Barca's third.

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