Uefa Champions League semi-final first leg Barcelona 3 Liverpool 0
Lionel Messi hurt Liverpool with two late goals last night to leave the Reds on the brink of elimination from the Champions League.
The visitors had made life uncomfortable for Barcelona the semi-final first leg in the Camp Nou but failed to take the chances that fell their way - in contrast to their hosts.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Former Anfield star Luis Suarez put Barca one up midway through the first half by timing a run into the penalty area to perfection, flicking home Jordi Alba’s gloriously weighted pass.
Then Messi doubled the advantage on 75 minutes, when he was first to pounce on the rebound as Suarez’s shot came off the bar.
Seven minutes later, the Argentine scored his second of the evening, and his 600th goal for Barcelona, weaving his magic from a free-kick.
Even Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had to smile as Messi put the ball into the Reds’ top corner from 25 yards out.
It was 14 years to the day since Messi scored his first for Barcelona - against Albacete - and since then he has established himself as one of the legends of the game, reaching 600 senior club goals in 118 games fewer than rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I’d rather not think about how he does it, to be honest, but he always shows up when we need him the most,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “This time just when we were in situations in which we had to shake Liverpool’s domination off.”
Liverpool could, and should, have scored a crucial away goal, but James Milner was twice denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Roberto Firmino’s effort was cleared off the line, and Mohamed Salah hit the post as he followed up with the goal at his mercy.
The worry for Liverpool, as Klopp conceded, is that apart from burying their chances, his side played some great football.
“I think it was the best away game in the Champions League - not only this year, last year included,” said the German. “I told the boys I’m proud of how we played. Against a side like this, playing this kind of football, I was completely happy.”
In the second half, Liverpool not only had more possession than their hosts (57.4%), they also had more shots on target (four to three). Those stats, explained Klopp, are reasons to be cheerful.
“I can work really well with this game,” he said. “I will use this game to show the boys what is possible. It was a brave performance that was very passionate, very lively and, in a lot of moments, creative and direct.”
What they said about the magic of Messi
Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona head coach: “The truth is, Leo’s always surprising… In the end, I don’t know how he does it, but he always does.”
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: “Obviously, we couldn’t defend the free-kick. What a strike. He’s a world-class player. In these moments, he’s unstoppable.”
Cesc Fabregas, former Barcelona midfielder: “Hats off to Liverpool, what an amazing performance. You can only lose a game like that if against you there is a good team but specially a player that is well above the rest.”
Gary Lineker, former England striker and BT Sport pundit: “WOW! Just Wow. Messi scores his 600th goal for @FCBarcelona with as good a freekick as you’ll ever see. The little genius defies logic.”
Rio Ferdinand, former England defender and BT Sport pundit: “Running at this pace with bodies all around him with his head high, and he always seems to release the ball just at the time when the defender is stretching and can’t get back.”
Messi free-kick: Twitter reactions and fan videos
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.