Barcelona wins, close to registering last 16 UCL berth

Madrid: FC Barcelona took a big step towards the last 16 of the Champions League as they won 2-0 away to BATE Borisov in Belarus.

Neymar was the star of the show in what was not a brilliant game, but in which Barca looked more assured than in their win over Rayo Vallecano during the weekend.

Barca expected their rivals to come out strongly in front of their fans, but BATE were happy to let the Catalans control the opening minutes.

They almost paid for that as Barca had three clear chances as Luis Suarez and Munir both saw shots saved by BATE keeper Sergi Chernik following corner kicks, before Suarez saw a volley deflected wide.

Luis Enrique was forced into an early change when injury forced Sergi Roberto out of action to be replaced by Ivan Rakitic.

Barca were looking dangerous from set pieces, while their rivals hardly threatened the Barcelona goal. At the other end, Rakitic and Neymar both went close without working Chernik, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

The visitors took the lead in the 48th minute thanks to a Rakitic thunderbolt after Neymar had unlocked the BATE defence with an excellent run.

The pair combined in similar fashion in the 65th minute to the same effect, only this time the finish was a cheeky chip over the keeper into the back of the net.

Valencia also took a big step towards the second stage as they defeated Belgian league leaders Genk.

Sofiane Feghouli put Valencia ahead with a side-footed finish after 15 minutes and the score would have been bigger had it not been for a series of fine saves from Genk keeper Matz Sels.

Sels’ work was rewarded at the other end when Tomas Foket hammered a left foot shot into the roof of the Valencia net.

Valencia retook the lead in slightly fortunate fashion 18 minutes from time when Stefan Mitrovic deflected a shot from Jose Gaya into his own net, although it needed a late save from Valencia keeper Jaume Domenech to assure the three points stayed in Mestalla.