Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, center, celebrates scoring a goal with team mates Lionel Messi, left, and Cesc Fabregas, right, during the Champions League round of the last sixteen soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Barcelona Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 in Leverkusen, Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)AP2012
Alexis Sánchez, Lionel Messi and defending champs FC Barcelona took their first steps toward another Champions League title Tuesday as they handily beat Germany’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-1 in the round of 16.
Visiting Barcelona scored first when in the 41st minute Alexis Sánchez put the ball through Leverkusen’s goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s legs after receiving an assist from Messi. It was the 23-year old Chilean forward’s first goal in Champions League play.
After Leverkusen’s Michal Kadlac tied the score in the 52nd, Sánchez scored off Cesc Fábrgas' through ball three minutes later. Messi got the final goal from a Dani Alves pass in the 88th, and with his 44th Champions League goal tied Alessandro Del Piero for eighth place.
The two teams will meet again to play at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, but Leverkusen will have a tough time advancing in Champions League play as goals scored in away matches count as double, thus making Barca’s score 6-1 at the end of Tuesday’s match.
Barcelona was coming off a weekend loss at Osasuna that dropped it 10 points behind Real Madrid in La Liga.
Madrid plasy next Tuesday in a match against Russia’s CSKA Moskva, the same day that Chelsea takes the pitch with Italy’s Napoli.
This Wednesday Arsenal and Milan face off and Portugal’s Benfica travel to St. Petersburg to play Zenit.
Contains reporting from the Associated Press.