Majestic Messi Gets Five in Demolition JobMarch 8, 2012
Messi made Champions League history on Wednesday, becoming the first player to score five in Europe’s premier tournament, as Barcelona trounced Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 on the night, 10-2 on aggregate. Substitute Cristian Tello chipped in with two goals, and Bellarabi added a spectacular late consolation goal for the visitors.
Barcelona began the encounter in the knowledge that they were practically through, but perhaps given the prestige of the tournament and Bayer Leverkusen’s upsurge of domestic form, Guardiola knew that any complacency would be dangerous and fielded the strongest team available.
As has been the case of late, Barça settled very quickly and went about putting the opposition under pressure with long spells of possession and diligent pressing. The approach began to reap its rewards, with the first chance of the match arriving in the 10th minute. Cesc released Messi with a delicate ball over the top. Messi brought it down, and when his near-post effort was saved by Leno, Pedro followed up with a shot that was blocked on the line by Castro.
The pressure was soon overwhelming, and when Leverkusen tried to push up the pitch Xavi released Messi from the halfway line. Messi surged forward and nonchalantly flicked the ball over Leno to open the scoring.
Leverkusen now had no choice but to attack and this plenty of space for Barcelona to counter. And it was such a move that they doubled the score. This time Iniesta switched the play to Messi, who was lurking on the right angle of the area. The Argentine forward drove into the box on one of his diagonal runs, beating three players before nonchalantly tucking the ball into the bottom-left corner.
The momentum carried over into the second half – Cesc spotted Messi with another fantastic through-pass, and as the forward strode on, the covering Leverkusen defender attempted to force him wide. Still, Messi kept his composure and produced a sublime right-footed lob to claim his hat-trick.
With the tie now dead and buried, Guardiola withdrew Iniesta for young winger Cristian Tello, who enhanced his reputation with almost his first touch, finding the bottom-right corner after being put through down the left by Cesc.
On the hour mark, Messi initiated a one-two – the return pass into the are was cut out by Leno, but when the ‘keeper spilled the ball Messi was on hand to grab his fourth of the night and take the score to five nil.
Barcelona were not done there though – the home team continued to come forward. A few minutes after Leno’s error Alves rushed down the right flank and cut inside to find Tello in space on the left side of the area. The winger’s finish was a little less polished this time, but still resulted in a goal.
As the game appeared to be petering out, Messi made history with his fifth, collecting the ball on the edge of the area from Keita and rolling it into the bottom-left corner.