Barcelona needed a win to advance and they got just that, easily defeating Spartak Moscow 3-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium. Lionel Messi scored twice and Dani Alves, assisted by Messi, added the third for the Catalans.
Despite the cold weather and plastic pitch, the match got off to a spirited start. Barcelona nearly opened the scoring in the 12th minute as Xavi found Pedro in the box with a pass over the top. Pedro deftly chested the ball down and volleyed the ball on frame from about 6 yards out. Fortunately for Spartak, Andriy Dykan was in the right place and parried the ball away.
Spartak came right back, earning a corner. The ball was curled right to Dmitriy Kombarov in space, but his shot went over the cross bar. They would pay for the missed chance.
In the 16th minute, Lionel Messi in traffic at the top of the penalty box bounced the ball off a Spartak defender, right to Dani Alves who sent a shot in the lower left corner of the next past Dykan. Surely Messi didn't intentionally bank a pass off a defender right?
Barcelona doubled their lead in the 27th minute. Dykan made a great fingertip save on a shot from Andres Iniesta, but the rebound went right to Messi at the top of the box. The Argentinian striker sent a bouncing shot just inside the post, past Dykan who was scrambling to get back in to position after the initial save.
As 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer, Barca decided to go ahead and get a third before halftime. Pedro hit Messi in stride with a perfect pass through the middle of the Spartak defense. The young wizard dribbled in to the box, went right around a diving Dykan and easily put the ball in to the empty net.
The pass and assist was a bit of redemption for Pedro who was shown a yellow card a few minutes before after a clever, but fairly obvious dive in the Spartak box.
It was a fairly quiet and efficient second half for Barcelona. They threatened Spartak's goal a couple times but more importantly, at least for their confidence, they limited the Russian's chances and kept a clean sheet. That might not seem like a big deal, but considering the defensive struggles that Tito Vilanova's side have had this season, that will likely be as important as the win.
Speaking of the win, Barcelona have booked a place in the Round of 16, making their final group stage match against Benfica meaningless (at least to the Blaugrana).
Just a little more housekeeping on the match. With his two goals, Messi is now has 80 goals in this calendar year, only five goals behind German legend Gerd Müller's record of 85. He also equaled Ruud Van Nistelrooy for second place on the all-time Champions League goal scorer list with 56.