Barca stroll past Sporting
© AFP

Barcelona coasted to a 5-2 victory over 10-man hosts Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday to win UEFA Champions League Group C after running riot at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon on Wednesday.  Both sides had already ensured their passage to the last 16 inside their first four games, leaving makeweights Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel trailing in their wake.

But Barca wanted group bragging rights and roared into a three-goal lead before a spell of complacency saw the Portuguese pull two goals back inside a minute.  The Catalan club, champions in 1992 and 2006, quickly produced a fourth goal when Marco Caneira put through his own net and teen striker Bojan Krkic scored the fifth from the penalty spot having replaced Henry at the break.

Henry, starting out as a lone spearhead with fellow former Arsenal man Alex Hleb and Messi foraging wide, put them ahead on the quarter hour.  Most of the spadework was done by Argentine star Messi, back on song after a thigh injury forced him out of Sunday's disappointing draw with Getafe.

Messi, a candidate for the prestigious Ballon d'Or awarded by French magazine France Football in December, tore down the right flank and set Henry up on a plate barely three metres out.  Three minutes later Gerard Pique bundled in the second after Eidur Godjohnsen unwittingly deflected a loose ball to him in a melee.

Four minutes after the restart Messi poached the third, gliding in to score unmarked following a Daniel Alves freekick to all but end the contest.  Barca then endured a sloppy few moments as Miguel Veloso smacked home a ferocious freekick in the 65th minute and Liedson then netted almost straight after the restart.

But within a minute Caneira screwed the ball into his own net under pressure and the roof then fell in on Sporting as Rui Patricio was red-carded for fouling Krkic, who coolly dispatched the resulting penalty in the 73rd minute.

For Guardiola, the impressive win was all the more rewarding after he elected to rest defender and skipper Carles Puyol as well as Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure and Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who looked on from the bench.