Barcelona cruised to the top of UEFA Champions League Group F with a comfortable win over Inter Milan.
Holders back on top of group after easy triumphBarcelona cruised back to the top of UEFA Champions League Group F with a comfortable win over Inter Milan. In danger of making an early exit from the competition before Tuesday's game, the holders were two goals to the good inside 26 minutes and made light work of Jose Mourinho's men. The result means all four teams in the group can now go through on Matchday Six following Rubin Kazan's goalless draw with Dynamo Kiev. Barca took the lead in the Camp Nou after just ten minutes when former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique fired home after Xavi's corner was flicked on by Thierry Henry. And they doubled the lead 16 minutes later when a sublime move instigated by Andres Iniesta saw Dani Alves pick out Pedro to shoot over Julio Cesar. From that point on it was cruise control for the holders with Inter making little impact on the home defence, former Barca striker Samuel Eto'o enduring a miserable night on his first return to Camp Nou.
HeadachesThe Catalan giants came into the match with plenty of headaches. Not only were they up against it in Group F after winning just one of their opening four matches, but they had been badly hit with injury and illness in the last week. Eric Abidal was able to start after recovering from swine flu, but Yaya Toure was missing having also contracted the illness while key attacking duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi were only named on the bench after fighting to recover from injuries. Barca would have been desperate for a good start, and they got just that as, with only 10 minutes on the clock, Pique muscled aside the challenge of Lucio to volley home from close range after Henry had flicked on Xavi's corner. And not long after that Barca doubled their lead with a slick team goal. A quick ball into Iniesta near the edge of the box was immediately played on to the marauding Alves down the right, and the Brazilian's cross to the far post was volleyed home by Pedro, whose effort found the back of the net despite Julio Cesar getting a hand to the ball. That put Barca in total control and they almost made it 3-0 just before the break when Seydou Keita powered in a header from another Xavi corner, but Julio Cesar was in the right place this time to save his side going further behind.
MasterclassIt was a first-half masterclass by Barca, who limited Inter to just one decent effort, which saw Diego Milito test Victor Valdes with a long-range effort. Inter coach Mourinho, whose in-form side had started the match first in Group F and boasting a five-point lead at the top of Serie A, decided to introduce Sulley Muntari for Esteban Cambiasso at the break, but it did little to change the match. Eto'o, the former Barca striker who had received a tremendous ovation on his return to the Camp Nou, felt he should have been awarded a penalty after being barged over by Alves, but that was a rare scare for the home side. Only a brilliant one-handed save from Julio Cesar prevented Xavi from heading in Barca's third in the 54th minute, before the Inter custodian performed similar heroics to push behind Alves low free-kick 13 minutes later. Barca continued to dominate possession in the closing stages, and although they were unable to build on their lead, they ran out comfortable winners to not only get their Champions League campaign back on track, but also boost confidence ahead of this weekend's 'Clasico' against bitter rivals Real Madrid.
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