Messi and Valdes guide Barcelona into semi-finals
Barcelona cruised into the semi-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday with a comfortable 1-0 win away to Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, dpa reported.
The only goal of a tame encounter was scored by FIFA World Player Lionel Messi. It was his ninth goal in the Champions League this season and, astonishingly, his 48th goal for Barca in all competitions.
Barca's other hero in the Donbass Arena was goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who kept the luckless Shakhtar forwards at bay.
Valdes said afterwards: "This is a difficult ground to come to, because they are strong opponents. But we are playing well, possibly better than in previous seasons at this stage."
When asked about the possibility of repeating the 2009 triple of Champions, Spanish league and cup, he replied: "We are going to fight for that. It won't be easy, but that is our aim."
Shakhtar striker Jadson, one of the club's many Brazilians, said: "They are a very good team, maybe the best in Europe. We tried our best against them over two games, but they are very hard to beat."
Barca went through on an impressive 6-1 aggregate. In the semis they will probably face Spanish rivals Real Madrid, who on Wednesday go to Tottenham defending a massive 4-0 lead.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola raised eyebrows by fielding all of his regulars, without resting any of them ahead of Saturday's league Clasico away to Real.
Shakhtar made a lively start, and Valdes was forced to make sharp early saves from Douglas Costa and Jadson.
Messi then took centre stage and went close to breaking the stalemate twice. It was a case of third time lucky, two minutes before half-time, when he scored with a clever near-post drive after taking a short pass from Dani Alves and skipping past two defenders in his unimitable impish fashion.
In the 59th minute Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov denied Messi his second goal with the save of the night. Valdes then followed suit with a spectacular save from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
From then on, Barca were content to play out time, with the upcoming clashes against Real on their minds.