MOSCOW: Lionel Messi continued his prodigious goalscoring form with a brace asBarcelona qualified for the last 16 of theChampions League with a 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow who have been eliminated.
After Dani Alves had put them ahead after 16 minutes, Messi bagged his double before half time to extend Barca’s lead at the top of Group G although Celtic, who face Benfica later, can still overtake them if they win their last two games and Barca slip-up.
Messi, who was top scorer in the competition for a record fourth time last season, now has five goals from five games and he has 80 for the calendar year as he pursues Gerd Muller’s 85 playing for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.
And he moved level with Ruud van Nistelrooy on 56 Champions League goals behind Raul, the competition’s all time scorer with 71.
Spartak coach Unai Emery was hampered by a number of injuries including Artem Dzyuba and Aiden McGeady while Nicolas Pareja was suspended.
Carles Puyol returned to the Barca defence in the weekend victory over Zaragoza for the first time since he dislocated his elbow in the Champions League clash with Benfica early in October, but Tito Vilanova chose to rest him with Javier Mascherano partnering Gerard Pique at the heart of the defence.
Barca forged the first opportunity when Pedro Rodriguez chested down a Xavi Hernandez pass but his volley was saved well by keeper Andrey Dikan.
Spartak may be struggling in Europe but they have been playing well domestically and are the top scorers in the Russian top flight. A well worked corner routine could have seen them go ahead but Dmitriy Kombarov side footed over from 12 yards.