Iniesta, Villa shine in Barca's victory
Defending champion Barcelona scored once in each half to beat Viktoria Plzen 2-0 in Group H of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Andres Iniesta set Barcelona on its way to its second straight victory in the competition with an early goal and David Villa added another late.
Barcelona squandered various chances to rout the Czech champions with Lionel Messi hitting the post twice on the way to setting a club record for the longest unbeaten run to start a season at 13 matches.
''The ball just didn't want to go in the net today,'' Villa said. ''But we were finally able to score the second goal on a counterattack. We shot 16 times and could have won 5-0, but our defensive effort was also important and that's where we played at a top level.''
With the victory, Barcelona stayed level on seven points with AC Milan, which beat BATE Borisov 2-0.
''I said before the game that we had to stop Messi, Iniesta and Xavi,'' Plzen coach Pavel Vrba said. ''As far as their individual talent goes, they are the best in the world. I would say they are perfection.''
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola opted to leave captain Carles Puyol on the bench and field Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano in the center of defense. Defender Gerard Pique joined Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Ibrahim Afellay on the injured list earlier this week.
The midfield and attack was left to the same six players that picked apart Manchester United in last season's final with Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta pulling the strings behind Messi and Villa.
After dropping points to the similarly unheralded Basel, Rubin Kazan and Copenhagen in the last three years, Barcelona came out intent on scoring early.
Pedro Rodriguez and Dani Alves had golden chances to put the hosts ahead before three minutes were up, but both missed from close range after one-touch passing combinations had left them with only goalkeeper Marek Cech to beat.
Iniesta, in his second game back since injuring his hamstring over a month ago, put Barcelona ahead in the 10th when he combined with Messi before deftly shedding his marker with a cutback to poke by Cech with his right foot.
''What can I say about Andres? He is a special player, who has a better scoring touch than he thinks,'' Guardiola said. ''Last year he was vital for us in the Champions and Liga, and this year he will be so as well.''
Barcelona continued to look effortlessly brilliant until it came to finishing with Pedro and Villa firing wide and Cech getting just enough of a touch on a Messi chip shot to send it into the side netting.
After the half-hour mark, Plzen's pressure caused Barcelona some problems and left winger Vaclav Pilar- dubbed the ''Czech Messi'' in his home country - briefly breathed some life into his team's attack that still failed to give Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes any work.
Barcelona quickly regained control but a second goal to decide the game before halftime remained elusive. Messi came closest with a free kick that hit the post as the goalkeeper looked on in injury time.
''The most difficult thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net,'' Guardiola said. ''We have played very well. They didn't have any scoring chances and that is of great merit.''
The second half became a series of frustrated opportunities for Messi, who was eager to add to his 16 goals this season.
In the 53rd, the Argentina forward kept his balance dribbling by three defenders only for Cech to block his effort. Messi then hit the post after dancing down the goalline, came within inches of tapping in a cross by Alves, and was denied by a defender in front of an open net.
''If the story is that Messi hasn't scored, look at what level he has reached,'' Guardiola said.
Villa finally sealed the win in the 81st when he fired in a shot after Messi had lost the ball inside the area.