Barca see off Shakhtar to claim semi-final spot

Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Barcelona 1 (Barca win 1-6 on aggregate)
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The Independent Football

Barcelona set up a probable Champions League semi-final clash with Spanish rivals Real Madrid after Lionel Messi netted in a 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk to complete a 6-1 aggregate success tonight.

The World Player of the Year's 43rd-minute strike, his ninth Champions League goal of the campaign, put the 2009 winners through to the semi-finals for a fourth straight year.

Messi scored when fullback Daniel Alves picked him out in the penalty area and he held off three defenders before slotting low past Andriy Pyatov.

Real will join Barca in the last four if they hold on to their comfortable 4-0 advantage at English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in tomorrow's quarter-final second leg at White Hart Lane.

"We came here with a big advantage but it's a very difficult place to play. They are a very good opponent and they fought until the end," Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes said in an interview with Spanish television.

"I think the team is playing much better than previous years and we just hope we can convert that into more titles."

The temperature was hovering just above freezing at Shakhtar's imposing Donbass Arena as the home side set about what was always likely to be an impossible mission against Pep Guardiola's slick side.

They enjoyed some decent early pressure and Valdes was forced into saves from Douglas Costa and Jadson before Barca began to get into their stride.

Argentina forward Messi had two decent chances before he broke the deadlock just before halftime.

Barca were always in control of the tie and Pyatov denied Ibrahim Afellay with a brilliant one-handed save in the 59th minute before Guardiola withdrew playmaker Xavi, centre back Gerard Pique and striker David Villa to give them a rest before Saturday's Real game.

The La Liga giants are set to meet four times in 18 days. After Saturday's league game at the Bernabeu, they play in the King's Cup final on April 20 and, barring a Spurs comeback against Real tomorrow, the home and away legs in the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition at the end of April and the beginning of May.

"We will face these matches against Real with the same desire as always," added Valdes. "It's going to be very intense but also a lot of fun.

"Winning another treble (after the one in 2009) is a difficult proposition but not impossible and we have to fight for it."

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