Barcelona squeeze past Copenhagen
© EFE

Lionel Messi struck two hugely contrasting goals as Barcelona climbed to the top of Group D in the UEFA Champions League after squeezing past erstwhile leaders Copenhagen at the Nou Camp.

Messi broke the deadlock with a thunderous effort in the 19th minute to cap a fine opening from Barca. The hosts, however, struggled to finish off their in-form opponents and survived a number of second-half scares before Messi tapped home from close range in stoppage time to secure the points. The victory lifts Barcelona onto seven points, one above Copenhagen and six clear of third-placed Rubin Kazan.

It was far from comfortable for the 2009 champions who had some nervous moments at 1-0 as they failed to assert their usual brand of dominating football on 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."

The Spanish champions suffered a setback earlier in the day when goalkeeper Victor Valdes was ruled out through injury while influential playmaker Xavi, who has been nursing an Achilles tendon problem, started the game on the bench. However, neither of those absentees looked like affecting Barca as they were quickly in control against a formiddable Copenhagen side. The Danish outfit won both of their opening Group D matches and are enjoying a record-breaking start to their domestic campaign.

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.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Barca came within inches of taking a fourth-minute lead when David Villa's measured shot came back off the crossbar, and soon after that Maxwell saw a shot saved by the legs of visiting goalkeeper Johan Wiland. Wiland then saved a header from Messi as Barca continued to push forward.

Messi finally got the better of Wiland two minutes later to give Barca the lead. 2010 FIFA World Cup™ winners' Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta combined before feeding the ball into Messi 25 yards out from goal, and the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year took one touch before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.

David Villa drew another save from Wiland after 32 minutes with a well-struck effort. The European giants, who beat Panathinaikos 5-1 in their previous home match in the UEFA Champions League before drawing 1-1 away to Rubin Kazan, looked to increase their advantage before the break. However, Pep Guardiola`s side struggled to secure a second goal and Copenhagen started to make life increasingly uncomfortable for them in the second half.

The closest Stale Solbakken's men would come was in the 66th minute when Dame Ndoye`s brilliant dipping effort from the edge of the box rattled off the bar. The rebound then looked set to be headed in by Cesar Santin but the striker, who scored a hat-trick in Saturday`s 5-0 league win against Odense BK, headed the ball wide with an open goal at his mercy.

Santin's misfire was a huge let-off for Barcelona, but there were still some more nervy moments to come for the Catalan giants. After Villa had been thwarted at point-blank range by Wiland, Barca needed a last-ditch tackle from Dani Alves to deny Cristian Bolanos. After 87 minutes, Copenhagen captain William Kvist almost scored with an audacious lob from inside the centre-circle but Pinto raced back to palm it away.

In the end, the 2009 European champions finished of the match. Messi sealed the win when Eric Abidal's mis-hit cross landed kindly for him six yards out and he rolled in his 29th Champions League goal.