Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola lauded Andres Iniesta as “unique” after the Spain international helped the Champions League holders ease past Viktoria Plzen.
Iniesta, who has only recently returned from a hamstring tear, played a key role in the 2-0 victory at the Nou Camp, including scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute following a superb piece of skill.
Guardiola said of the 27-year-old World Cup winner: “Andres, when he’s in good shape, is unique, a star player. He works hard and scores more goals than you think, and he has this ability to break down defences which is so important for us.
“He’s come back really well from his injury. Last year he was vital for us, and now we hope he will be just as important. For our part, we’ll try to take care of him and make sure he’s okay.”
Barca went into the match having scored 23 goals in their previous five home matches this season, keeping four clean sheets in the process, and another one-sided win looked on the cards following Iniesta’s early goal.
However, despite creating a host of chances in the match – Lionel Messi hitting the post twice – Barca had to wait until eight minutes from time to finish off their opponents when David Villa added a second goal.
Villa said in the Spanish press: “We did the same thing as on other days, but we just didn’t finish as well.
“We’ve found it harder to finish the game off more than other times, but we are happy with the win. When it’s 1-0 things can get complicated. I’m pleased with the goal, it helped calm the situation.”
The victory left Barca second in Group H, level on seven points with leaders AC Milan and six clear of BATE Borisov and Viktoria.
The top two meet at the San Siro in the penultimate round of fixtures in what looks set to be a contest to decide which team will finish top, but Barca midfielder Javier Mascherano is taking things one game at a time.
He said: “Next we have to go and play at Viktoria, and as they showed here it won’t be easy to get a good result.
“We’ve taken a little step more towards the last 16 but there are still three games left and winning here was very important.”