Sanchez was on hand to turn in Lionel Messi’s cross after just six minutes and despite a few scares from an attack-minded Benfica, they sealed the three points 10 minutes into the second period when Messi again set up Fabregas to rifle in at Artur Moraes’ near post.
The Catalans’ night was soured near the end when captain Carles Puyol was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a broken arm after he landed awkwardly attacking a corner, before Sergio Busquets was shown a straight red card two minutes from time. Barca host Real Madrid in La Liga on Sunday, and play Celtic in their next Champions League outing.
In Group F, BATE Borisov claimed one of the biggest scalps in their history after stunning in-form Bayern Munich at the Dinamo Stadion to open up a three-point lead.
Goals from Alexander Pavlov and Vitaly Rodionov put the Belarusian champions in charge. Bayern pulled one back in stoppage time through Franck Ribery but BATE added a third from Renan Bressan to seal a first ever home win in the competition.
Two goals from Brazilian Jonas saw Valencia past Lille 2-0 at the Mestalla, the French side finishing with 10 men as Mathieu Debuchy saw red.
In Chelsea’s Group B, Juventus could not deliver a first Champions League victory at their new stadium but the Bianconeri might count themselves lucky to have salvaged a draw against a spirited Shakhtar Donetsk. It took a thunderbolt from defender Leonardo Bonucci to guarantee a share of the spoils after Alex Teixeira had put the Ukrainians ahead on the counter-attack.
In Manchester United’s Group H, Braga produced an away smash-and-grab to snatch a 2-0 win at Galatasaray.
After Ruben Micael stabbed in a 27th-minute opener Braga soaked up the home pressure and, aided by some poor Gala finishing, sealed victory when skipper Alan netted a second in injury time.