Messi Makes History AgainNovember 2, 2011
FC Barcelona made light work of Czech side Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Tuesday, winning 4-0 away. Lionel Messi notched a fabulous hat-trick on the night he reached the 200 goal landmark, and was joined on the score-sheet by Cesc Fàbregas.
The lineup was remarkable for the inclusion of Messi, Cesc and Piqué, who were starting in their first competitive game together since their days at La Masia more than eight years ago. Puyol partnered Piqué in central defence, and Isaac Cuenca continued his run in the team, starting on the right wing. Elsewhere Thiago and Cesc stood in for Iniesta and Xavi, both recuperating from minor injuries.
Against motivated opposition at the Struncovy Savy Stadion, Barcelona needed their customary few minutes to settle, and it was the home side that had the best of the early chances. Firstly Petrzela somehow managed to break free into a one-on-one situation with Valdés, but Barça’s ‘keeper was equal to the task, getting down quickly to his left. Moments later Kolar found himself unmarked in the area, but skied his shot, much to the relief of the Barcelona defence.
Cesc was denied what appeared to be a clear-cut penalty, when he turned in the box, but seemed to be brought down by a clumsy Jiracek tackle. Twenty minutes in, Barcelona were hitting their stride; Cesc had a powerful mid-range effort pushed away, and then Lionel Messi jinked into the area and was fouled when he nimbly cut inside defender Marian Cisovsky. Referee Robert Schöfgenhofer saw it as a goalscoring opportunity and somewhat harshly sent the Slovak defender off.
The Argentine was clinical from the penalty spot, finding the bottom left corner to claim his 200th goal for the club. He was on the scoresheet again in the closing minutes of the half when he bustled forward, played a one-two with Adriano and tucked the return ball past Pavlik from six yards.
Straight after the break Messi and Cesc combined, with the latter almost sealing a wonderful team goal when he clipped the ball over the onrushing Pavlik, but his effort just missed the far post. Messi then saw a fine 25-yard free kick saved on the stretch by Pzlen’s goalkeeper.
Pzlen then went close, when Petrzela smashed a half-volley into the side-netting for the home side’s last real chance of the night. Isaac Cuenca started to shine for Barcelona, first working some space at the byline with excellent close control. A few minutes later he worked himself free and curled a perfect cross for Cesc to head home to take the score to 3-0.
Alexis Sánchez made a long-awaited return from injury with three minutes to go, and almost capped his comeback with a goal when Messi put him through in a narrow position on the right. Then, in the dying embers of the game, Barcelona’s inspirational Argentine grabbed his hat-trick, rounding the keeper and slotting home after Piqué had released him with a smart backheel.
0-1, Messi (min 22, pen)
0-2, Messi (min 45+1)
0-3, Cesc (min 71)
0-4, Messi (min 90+2)