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Messi double sinks Moscow

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

MOSCOW - Lionel Messi has continued his prodigious goal-scoring form with a brace as Barcelona qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow who have been eliminated.

After Dani Alves had put them ahead after 16 minutes, Messi bagged his double before half time to extend Barca's lead at the top of Group G although Celtic, who face Benfica later, can still overtake them if they win their last two games and Barca slip-up.

Messi, who was top scorer in the competition for a record fourth time last season, now has five goals from five games and he has 80 for the calendar year as he pursues Gerd Muller's 85 playing for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.

And he moved level with Ruud van Nistelrooy on 56 Champions League goals behind Raul, the competition's all time scorer with 71.

Messi though was as unassuming as ever after the game.

"My aim was just to get the ball, create chances and that we win the game, that is what is important," he said.

"We knew we couldn't afford to make mistakes after what happened against Celtic and that we had to go out strongly even though it is difficult to play away in this competition."

Barca had lost their previous match away to Celtic 2-1 despite dominating possession but were unable to make the most of their chances.

"Against Celtic we had the same number of opportunities but sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't," said coach Tito Vilanova.

"Everyone talks about Leo, the goals and the records, but it is more his awareness and tactics. The way he defends and attacks and helps the team in all areas.

"The team showed how great they are as this was a difficult game in the cold on an artificial pitch, although some of them have played on it before, and they played an excellent match.

"It was important for us not to have to qualify in the final game, which will not be easy against Benfica."

Spartak coach Unai Emery was hampered by a number of injuries including Artem Dzyuba and Aiden McGeady while Nicolas Pareja was suspended.

Carles Puyol returned to the Barca defence in the weekend victory over Zaragoza for the first time since he dislocated his elbow in the Champions League clash with Benfica early in October, but Vilanova chose to rest him with Javier Mascherano partnering Gerard Pique at the heart of the defence.





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