LISBON - Barcelona clinched top place in Group C when they crushed Sporting 5-2 in an action packed Champions League match on Wednesday. With the two teams having already qualified for the knockout stage, unbeaten Barca took their points tally to 13 with one game still to play, four points ahead of the Lisbon team. Thierry Henry opened the scoring for Barcelona, champions in 2006, in the 14th minute from a fine pull-back by Lionel Messi on the right and three minutes later they doubled the lead with a goal by defender Gerard Pique in a scramble at a corner. The ever-dangerous Messi converted a quick free kick taken by Daniel Alves four minutes into the second half to take his Champions league tally to five goals, top equal with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard. But Barcelona's dominance suddenly came under serious threat when Sporting scored twice in two minutes. They pulled one back with a brilliant curling free kick by midfielder Miguel Veloso in the 65th and this was followed within a minute by a breakaway goal by striker Liedson. Sporting's revival was nipped in the bud, though, when defender Marco Caneira, under pressure from substitute forward Pedro Rodriguez, scored an own goal a minute later. Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola said that despite the high score, "it's never easy, it helped scoring two goals early. "In the second half we lost control of the game, we had a lot of luck with the fourth one," he told reporters. Sporting's quick goals got the fans at the Alvalade stadium behind the team again after they had booed their players throughout the first half. Substitute striker Bojan Krkic added a fifth for Barca with a 73rd-minute penalty after he was brought down by keeper Rui Patricio who was sent off for the foul. "A great penalty and the expulsion killed the game for us," said Sporting coach Paulo Bento, adding that his side reacted well in the second half. "They (Barcelona) have great technical ability," Bento said. "Our defence had to work hard, which was a problem."
26 November 2008
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