Magic moments from Messi as Barcelona sink Bayern
Argentine forward scores one of the goals of the season to put Catalans on verge of final
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0
Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola warned before Wednesday's Champions League semi-final that Lionel Messi was impossible to stop, and how prophetic his words turned out to be as the Barcelona striker struck twice in the space of three minutes and then set up a killer third goal to put Barcelona on the brink of the Champions League final.
The 27-year-old magician notched a stunning second-half brace against Bayern from out of the blue, and in doing so moved ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the all time Champions League goalscoring list. Both players had 75 goals at the start of the week, but Ronaldo edged ahead of Messi on Tuesday when he scored for Real Madrid against Juventus. Messi's wondrous response against the German champions means he now has 77 goals in the competition compared to Ronald's 76.
Few of those 77 will match the quality of Messi's crucial second goal against Bayern, which will go down as one of the strikes of the season. Collecting the ball on the right, he surged into the box, produced a sublime shimmy that left defender Jerome Boateng on his backside, and then held his nerve to calmly chip the ball over the head of the onrushing Manuel Neuer. It looked simple but it was far from it. That is Messi's brilliance, the time he seems to have on the ball that makes such goals look easy. In reality his pace and exquisite precision allow him to score goals that other strikers can only dream about.
As Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said later, Messi is a footballer "from another planet", sentiments echoed by Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano, who said of his teammate: "He's a player that is impossible to describe. It's just... you have to watch him."
Neuer could hardly be faulted for the second, but he may have still have been cursing himself for failing to stop Messi's first goal. That came courtesy of a low stinging shot on 77 minutes that caught the German international off balance and beat him at the near post.
That goal broke Bayern's stubborn resistance at the Camp Nou, and three minutes later Messi scored his wondrous second. Still the Argentina wasn't finished with the Germans, however, and in injury time as the German pressed forward he sent Neymar through on goal to put the tie seemingly beyond Bayern's grasp.
The Germans will tell themselves that they overturned a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their quarter-final with Porto last month, but Barcelona aren't Porto and the chances of a Bayern victory are slim. Guardiola, who twice guided Barcelona to Champions League glory during his time as their coach, admitted it had been a chastening evening for his side.
"If you don't have possession against Barcelona it is difficult and our plan was to monopolise the ball and make them run. But we were not dominant enough, " he reflected. "We knew who we were facing tonight. It has worked for me in the past to control possession and I cannot imagine football played any other way."
Asked if he believed Bayern could still reach next month's final Guardiola replied: "You can turn around a one or two-goal deficit, but three is tough."