Barcelona cruises into knockout stage
Barcelona cruised into the knockout round of the Champions League on Wednesday after Lionel Messi scored his 150th goal for the Spanish club in a 3-0 victory over Panathinaikos.
Pedro Rodriguez got the other two goals, steering his first past goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas in the 27th minute, seconds after Adriano had forced an acrobatic save from the Greek keeper.
Messi added the second in the 62nd minute - his sixth goal in the Champions League this season 23rd in 18 games in all competitions - with a tap-in after a skilful exchange between Andres Iniesta and Adriano.
Rodriguez netted his second in the 69th, again set up by Iniesta.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said he was "delighted" to seal a spot in the knockout round before returning to Spain to face Real Madrid on Monday.
"Of course this gives us a boost for that match," he said. "The next two matches will be physically demanding, so this result is a relief for us."
Barcelona effortlessly dominated at the sold-out Olympic Stadium, keeping the game at a comfortable pace for much of the Group D encounter.
The Greeks were lucky to reach the break with a one-goal deficit, after David Villa missed successive chances late in the first half and Messi twice ran through Panathinaikos' defense.
France striker Djibril Cisse had Panathinaikos' best chance, but failed to beat goalkeeper Victor Valdes from close range in the 19th minute.
Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi briefly interrupted the match in the second half after fans threw flares onto the track. Fans were repeatedly warned by match organizers not to use laser pointers, while two youths ran onto the pitch in the second half.
Defeat for Panathinaikos, in new coach Jesualdo Ferreira's first game in charge, meant the end of European football this season for the Greek champions .
"This was a great opportunity to see how my players would react against such a big team," Ferreira said. "I would of course liked us to continue our European campaign, but now we have to use all our strength to defend our league title in Greece - that is our obligation."