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Lionel Messi fires late brace as Barcelona beat Bayern Munich
Lionel Messi fires late brace as Barcelona beat Bayern Munich

 
 Bayern Munich
 
 FC Barcelona

Champions League semi-final first leg, Nou Camp - Barcelona 3 (Messi 77, 80, Neymar 90+4) Bayern Munich 0

Lionel Messi ensured it was a nightmare return for Pep Guardiola as his late double inspired Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi final at the Nou Camp.

The former coach of the Catalan giants described his former star as "unstoppable" in his pre-match press conference and it proved to be the case as Messi was the difference on an exhilarating night of football.

The Argentina forward took centre stage 13 minutes from time with a wonderful low shot into the bottom corner before eclipsing that strike with a slaloming run and dink over Manuel Neuer just moments later.

Neymar then raced through deep into injury time to coolly fire home and give the Spanish outfit a huge cushion to take to Munich next Tuesday.

The pre-match focus was inevitably on Guardiola's return 'home' but it wasn't long before all the attention switched to the bizarre system he was deploying to try to nullify the threat of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The decision to go three on three against the finest forward line on the planet simply didn't work and only some outstanding goalkeeping from Neuer and some desperate last-ditch defending denied Suarez and co the opener. The former Liverpool striker had at least two clear-cut openings while Neuer was again at his imperious best to keep out Dani Alves' stabbed attempt.

At the other end Robert Lewandowski was donning a mask to protect a nasty facial injury and he would have been grateful for it to hide his blushes when he completely miscued eight yards out after some clever play on the right from Thomas Mueller.

Bayern improved following the break but it was still Barcelona who had the better openings with Neymar crashing a shot over the top after creating space inside the area from the tireless Ivan Rakitic's pass.

The visitors didn't have a shot on target until Thiago's tame deflected effort in the 71st minute and they were eventually undone soon after as Messi showed again just why he is regarded as one the greatest players of all-time.


Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their first goal past Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer - Reuters

KEY MOMENTS

PRE-MATCH: No surprises in the Barca line-up as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar forge that formidable frontline. Bayern are missing a raft of key personnel but are buoyed by the news Robert Lewandowski will feature and will wear a protective mask. The striker broke his nose and jaw during a German cup defeat to Borussia Dortmund but is fit to start.

12' - BARCELONA CHANCE! Suarez is sent clear on goal and goes one-on-one with Neuer. It looks like the inevitable opener but Neuer sticks out a long leg to divert the Uruguayan's low shot away. Big save by the German stopper.

15' - BARCELONA CHANCE! Suarez wreaks havoc on the right of the area and cuts a low cross towards Neymar that deflects off Rafinha and behind. Close!

18' - BAYERN CHANCE! Bayern should be ahead. Mueller battles free on the right and teases a low cross towards Lewandowski who must score from eight yards, but completely misses his kick under no pressure.

27' - BARCELONA CHANCE! A corner from the left picks out Suarez who bullets a free header over the bar. He should have done better.

39' - MORE NEUER HEROICS! Neuer is at it again. This time he reacts well to deny Dani Alves after the Brazilian had latched onto a clever pass from Iniesta to stab an effort on goal.


Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer in action with Barcelona's Luis Suarez - Reuters

64' - BARCELONA CHANCE! Rakitic feeds Neymar on the left of the area. The Brazilian cuts back inside but crashes a shot over the crossbar.

71' - BAYERN CHANCE! A flowing break sees Bernat tee up Thiago whose deflected shot is smothered by ter Stegen. Was that Bayern's first attempt on target?

77' - GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Bayern. Alves wins the ball deep in Bayern territory and feeds Messi who drills a low 20-yard effort beyond Neuer.

80' - GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Bayern. Messi at the double! The magician destroys Bayern once more, slaloming beyond Boateng and dinking a sublime finish over Neuer.


Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their second goal - Reuters

90+4'' - GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Bayern. It's 3-0 and Barca have one foot in the final. Neymar races through and slots beyond Neuer as Bayern were caught pushing for that away goal.

KEY STATS

Lionel Messi (77) is now one goal ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (76) as Champions League top-scorer.

Barcelona have won nine successive CL games for the first time since 2002/03.

Messi has been involved in six of Barcelona’s last eight goals against Bayern in the CL (4 goals, 2 assist).

Messi clocked up game number 100 for Barcelona in Europe and became the third youngest player to reach that landmark behind Pepe Reina and Raul.

Thomas Muller made his 300th appearance in all competitions for Bayern Munich.

Xavi made his 149th Champions League appearance equalling the record of Iker Casillas.

No player has missed more clear-cut chances in the Champions League this season than Robert Lewandowski (8).

Pep Guardiola has only won three of his 15 CL away knockout games as a manager (D7 L5).

Based on historical results, Barcelona now have a 93.7% chance of reaching the final in Berlin on 6 June.

Stats courtesy of Opta and Infostrada


Barcelona's Neymar scores their third goal - Reuters

TALKING POINT

The first and last 15 minutes. Bayern's decision to go man-for-man against Barca's front three stunned the watching world and made for compulsive viewing. The hosts could easily have plundered a couple of goals in the early stages and it wasn't until Guardiola made a drastic change to go 4-2-3-1 that the game became less stretched. It looked like being a let off until the final 15 minutes when Messi took the game by the scruff of its neck and inspired his side to score three goals. Bayern's hopes are now hanging by a thread as Barca showed their doubters they are the real deal.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

MAN OF THE MATCH

Lionel Messi (Barcelona): For a long time this award was destined for Manuel Neuer. The German stopper was quite sensational, but Messi's late surge in a game of this magnitude was the stuff that only a very few are capable of.


Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action with Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso - Reuters

PLAYER RATINGS:

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Alves 7, Pique 7, Mascherano 7, Alba 7, Busquests 7, Rakitic 7, Iniesta 7, Suarez 6, Messi 9, Neymar 7. Subs: Xavi 6, Rafinha n/a, Bartra n/a.

Bayern Munich: Neuer 8, Rafinha 6, Boateng 6, Benatia 5, Bernat 5, Alonso 6, Lahm 6, Schweinsteiger 5, Thiago 6, Muller 6, Lewandowski 6. Subs: Goetze 5.

LINK: https://www.ansarpress.com/english/3536






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