Superstar scores twice, making it difficult to overturn Barca’s 3-0 lead
BARCELONA – Lionel Messi’s exquisite Champions League double for Barcelona against Bayern Munich on Wednesday was a case of history repeating itself with an added magnificent assist for Neymar to seal an emphatic 3-0 semi-final, first-leg win.
With football’s European heavyweights locked at 0-0 in the absorbing clash at the Nou Camp, the Argentina forward picked up a 77th-minute pass and lashed a shot into the corner past Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to put Barca 1-0 up.
Three minutes later, Messi left Bayern defender Jerome Boateng on the seat of his pants and beat Neuer with a delicate chip that sent his adoring fans packed into the giant arena into a delirium.
The parallels with Barca’s last-four, first-leg win at Real Madrid in 2011, when Messi netted two late goals including a breathtaking second, were obvious.
But this time around, there was more to come from the South American genius.
The match had already ticked into stoppage time when he sent Neymar clear and the Brazil forward raced away to make it 3-0 and virtually assure Barca a place in June’s final in Berlin.
Messi’s second goal, in particular, drew effusive praise from all sides, with headlines in yesterday’s sports papers dubbing him everything from a god to an extra-terrestrial. He recaptured the record for Champions League goals from Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo, which the Portuguese forward set on Tuesday, and now has 77, including a competition-best 10 in the latest edition.
“It was over in a second, it just happened like that,” Messi, 27, with typical self-effacement, said when asked about his second goal.
“I imagined that Boateng would expect me to switch to my stronger (left) foot so I cut back the other way.”
With Messi in this kind of form, it is hard to imagine Bayern mounting a comeback in Tuesday’s second leg in Munich.
The German giants, however, reached the semi-finals with a 6-1 second-leg drubbing of Porto at home after losing 1-3 away in the quarter-finals.
While it is mathematically possible for Bayern to progress, they need a footballing miracle similar to Deportivo La Coruna’s 4-0 rout of AC Milan, having lost the first-leg 1-4 in Italy, in the 2004 quarter-finals.
But no side have ever come back from losing the first leg 0-3 in the semi-finals of the Champions League or European Cup – especially against Barcelona.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE