Lionel Messi was in Superb form as he took his tally to an incredible 600 goals for Barcelona as his second-half double inspired a 3-0 walloping of Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League semifinals at the Nou Camp.
The Argentine genius struck twice in seven devastating minutes late in the contest to stun the Merseysiders and leave Jurgen Klopp’s side’s hopes of a second straight appearance in the final of this competition hanging by a thread.
Uraguayian forward, Luis Suarez had opened the scoring against his former club in the first period when he provided a clever finish to Jordi Alba’s sublime left-wing cross to put Ernesto Valverde’s team on course to make it 32 home matches unbeaten on Europe’s elite stage.
Liverpool game plan was distorted by the early withdrawal of Naby Keita through injury, but did threaten on the counter attack, with Sadio Mane blazing a fantastic opening over the bar.
The Merseysiders improved markedly after the break but James Milner and Mohamed Salah couldn’t find a way past a determined Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Messi took centre stage with a simple tap-in and a sensational 30-yard free kick.
The visitors should still have reduced the arrears, but Salah somehow hit the post from close range after substitute Roberto Firmino had a shot kicked off the line.
Both sides will now turn their attention to contrasting weekend fixtures prior to the second leg at Anfield on May 7. Barca travel to Celta Vigo on Saturday and will surely rest their key men having already won La Liga. Meanwhile, Liverpool visit Newcastle United knowing they cannot afford any hangover if they are to push Manchester City all the way in the Premier League title race.
By Olukayode Oniwinde