Bayern Munich's visit to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg ended in Messi showcase.
Once the coach of Leo Messi at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, who now coaches Bayern Munich, made one or two things clear ahead of last night's match, saying before kickoff: “There is no system that can stop Leo Messi, and no coach, either.”
Messi scored two excellent goals within 3 minutes, between 77 to 80 of the game. The Argentinean proved his old coach right - he really couldn't be stopped – eventually his skill would prove too much.
Neymar scored the third and final goal of the match with seconds remaining leaving the end results at 3-0 for a Barcelona home win.
It was overall a fascinating, high-paced match where at times even the goalkeepers and defenders played football, and one that ended essentially with Bayern’s keeper Manuel Neuer beaten three times.
Neuer had been generally excellent throughout, with two notably good saves against Luis Suárez and Dani Alves, but Messi is a different animal – he will not be denied his turn – and here Neuer succumbed to let the ball home more than once.
Laying out Messi’s brilliance – or genius as some say – is not an easy feat: last night’s match was his 100th European game; he’s scored 78 goals, and his irrepressible performance rarely saw a weak point.
The final score goes further in indicating Messi’s talent than anything else; as the Germans put on a solid tactical show before they fell; they ended with 55% ball possession overall.
An interesting factoid is that Bayern is only the second team to have a majority possession against Barcelona in 442 games.
Barcelona’s keeper, Marc-André ter Stegen, said of his team-mate: “There are no words for Messi,” adding, “Just watch him and enjoy.”
During Guardiola’s four years as head coach in Cataluyna, where he was the mastermind of Barcelona’s 2008 to 2012 golden age, he won 14 trophies including two Champion’s League trophies.
Despite his renowned past with the winners he made it clear he'll be doing all he can to ensure the Bavarians made a second final in three years.
Next week Barcelona and Bayern Munich will meet again in the semi-final second leg to decide which team sees the Champion’s League final.
Between Messi, Suarez and Neuer, they’ve scored 111 goals this season and Barcelona has won 16 of their last 17 games.
If Messi shows up on-form again next week in Berlin then perhaps the wise words of his former coach - that echoed as the whisstle blew last night – will be enough to give good indication of the outcome.
Paddy Power has Barcelona to win the Champions League at 8/15, while Sky Bet has them at 4/7.
Next week’s second leg semi-final will hopefully be as exhilarating as the first one – if you fancy a punt then sign up to Gambling Deals and get up to 20% cashback on your betting losses at your favourite bookies.