Barcelona crushed Champions League hopefuls Shakhtar Donetsk in a five-goal thumping at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, while Manchester United earned a slim one-goal advantage away at Chelsea.
Barcelona stamped their authority all over the match
In Spain, all eyes were on whether Ukrainian club Shakhtar could topple the Spanish champions, or at least take a respectable goal margin into the second-leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie next week.
But Mircea Lucescu's men found the going tough from the outset, conceding after just two minutes thanks to Andres Iniesta, who had been pushed upfield into a more attacking role than usual, thanks to the absence of Pedro Rodriguez from the starting lineup .
Shakhtar handled the goal well, however, and sought to match Barca's possession game with their own attacking forays. In particular, the pace of Brazilian forward Luiz Adriano troubled the Catalans, though his composure let him down.
However, the ploy could only last so long. Barcelona scored their second goal on the 34-minute mark when Dani Alves timed his run to perfection to keep on side and collect an Iniesta pass before finishing in an empty net.
The first half ended 2-0, but if Shakhtar had any hopes of pulling the deficit back they went about it the wrong way, allowing Barcelona to score eight minutes into the second half through Gerard Pique to push the score to 3-0.
Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all had good games against Shakhtar
Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy made amends at the other end by flicking a free kick past keeper Victor Valdes; but any hope of a comeback was short-lived. From the restart Barca attacked and Messi found Keita in oceans of space, powering a shot into the roof of the net from the edge of the area.
There was to be no joy for Adriano as he hit the inside of the post for Shakhtar and then in the final minutes Xavi was left unmarked to convert an Alves cross and put Barca on the verge of the semifinals.
In London, meanwhile, last season's Premier League champions, Chelsea, hosted this year's league leaders, Manchester United, in what was sure to be a close encounter.
A lone goal from England striker Wayne Rooney in the 24th minute proved to be enough for United, with Chelsea left to rue their inability to score at Stamford Bridge ahead of the return-leg clash at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Chelsea began brightly with a few chances going the way of Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba, who were partnering each other in attack.
Rooney (l) scored the only goal of the game
But out of nothing, United took the lead with a beautifully worked goal. Michael Carrick hit a long diagonal ball out to the left wing and veteran Ryan Giggs cushioned the cross brilliantly before pulling it back for Rooney to slot the ball into the far corner.
Right at the death Chelsea could be forgiven for claiming a penalty when Ramires was taken down by Evra inside the area. Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco waved play on although television replays suggested a penalty should have been given.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was upbeat about his side's chances heading into the home leg.
"It's halfway, we've got an advantage and the biggest advantage we have is Old Trafford for the second leg," he said, adding that he had not seen the contentious penalty decision.
"Maybe it was a penalty, maybe it wasn't, but it's swings and roundabouts," United defender Rio Ferdinand said. "I think these things cancel each out over the season but I haven't seen it."
Both second-leg ties are to be played on April 12, with Shakhtar hosting Barcelona in Donetsk and Chelsea traveling to Manchester.
Author: Darren Mara (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Sarah Harman