Barcelona pass their way into last 16
© AFP

Pedro scored twice and Lionel Messi capped a sublime performance with a goal as Barcelona reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League with an emphatic 3-0 victory at Panathinaikos in Group D.

Messi scored the second goal of the game after a superb build-up, sandwiching goals by Pedro, as Barça continued their fantastic form which saw them win 8-0 at Almeria at the weekend. It was a tough start for new Pana manager Jesualdo Ferreira, who replaced Nikos Nioplias last Saturday after the previous incumbent's departure.

Their opening game of the group had seen the Greek side thrashed 5-1 by tonight's opponents at the Nou Camp, which was compounded by a home defeat by FC Copenhagen. Back-to-back goalless draws against Rubin Kazan saw them rooted to the bottom with just two points in contrast to their illustrious opponents who were top of the group. Two wins and two draws saw Barcelona unbeaten and knowing a win tonight would see them through.

Barcelona had the better of the initial stages but for all their dominance, Pana should have taken the lead with a glorious chance in the 20th minute when an unmarked Djibril Cisse found himself through on goal with just Victor Valdes to beat. However, the former Liverpool striker did not appear convincing as he bore down on goal and with Valdes narrowing the angle, Cisse could only hit the ball straight at the keeper.

The hosts were made to pay six minutes later when Pedro played a one-two with Dani Alves and the striker turned and shot across the keeper and into the net. Barça had a chance of doubling their lead five minutes before half-time when Messi found David Villa on the left of the area. The striker's first touch was too heavy, though, and goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas was able to block the shot.

The keeper then blocked bravely at the feet of Pedro before palming away a curling Villa shot as Barça pressed at the end of the half. Tzorvas was in inspired form, producing a flying save from Adriano's curling shot which was destined for the top corner as Barça continued their attacking play in the second half.

It was a matter of time before the visitors scored again and it came with a little under an hour remaining when Messi scored a goal of vision and simplicity. Messi started off the move on the right with Xavi and Andres Iniesta exchanging short, one-touch passes before Adriano produced a reverse pass in front of goal for the Argentinian who tapped home.

Barça were tearing Pana apart and got their third in the 69th minute. Alves played a lob into the area which Iniesta controlled before passing with the outside of his right foot for Pedro to slot home.