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UEFA Champions League Group G wrap: Barca juggernaut rolls on

Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas were on target as Barcelona strolled to a 2-0 Champions League victory over Benfica in Lisbon.

A close-range finish in the opening stages from Alexis gave his side the perfect start, before Fabregas ensured Barca the three points when he blasted home 10 minutes into the second half.

A capacity crowd at Estadio da Luz enjoyed a gripping start to the group stage encounter, Benfica quickly calling Victor Valdes into action when the goalkeeper was forced to parry away Bruno Cesar’s low effort.

Barca’s response was devastating, Lionel Messi at the centre of slick passing moving before sliding the ball through to Sanchez to steer home the opener after six minutes.

The hosts looked to hit back immediately but the quick reflexes of Valdes denied Lima after the striker was played in by a fine pass from Nicolas Gaitan.

Barca could have extended their lead when Alexis’ low cross was met by Messi only for Artur to produce a smart save to deny the Argentine.

With barely a minute on the clock following the restart, the visitors could have extended their advantage through Alexis, but the Chilean striker saw his effort rebound off the post.

A goal looked inevitable as the whistles of the home crowd welcomed Barcelona’s masterful control of the ball, and it duly came through Fabregas.

A dizzying run from Messi opened up Benfica’s defence and the playmaker picked up his second assist of the match as his deft through ball was blasted home by Fabregas.

Benfica continued their valiant attempt to get back into the game but the best chances were still falling to Barca, with Pedro coming closest to putting the finishing touches on the resounding win.

Also in Group G, Georgios Samaras scored in injury-time to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory for Celtic against Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Gary Hooper gave Neil Lennon’s team the lead but two tap-ins from Emmanuel Emenike put the home side in front.

The game changed, however, when Juan Insaurralde was sent off for a challenge on Hooper and Dmitri Kombarov sent the ball into his own net to level the score after James Forrest been denied at the end of a sweeping attacking move.

And Samaras rose to head home Emilio Izaguirre’s header as Celtic sealed a long overdue away victory in Europe’s premier club competition.

Tuesday’s results see Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona top the group with a maximum six points, two clear of second-placed Celtic, while Benfica are third on one point and Spartak last following consecutive defeats.

Tue 2 October, 2012
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