Messi showcases brilliance as Manchester United knocked out Champions League


Barcelona reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2015 with a 4-0 aggregate victory over Manchester United.

Lionel Messi produced one of his trademark high-quality performances as he dominated the tie, scoring twice to send Ernesto Valverde’s side reached the final four courtesy of a brace from the Argentine and a stunning strike from Philippe Coutinho.

Messi was kept relatively quiet during Barca’s 1-0 first leg win at Old Trafford last week, but the five-time Ballon D’Or winner showcased his excellence as he won the ball from Ashley Young before producing an outstanding finish from the edge of the box to open the scoring.

Barcelona increased their lead four minutes later as the Argentine’s skill enabled him to dart into space where he struck a low effort towards goal, but United shot-stopper David De Gea took his eye off the ball and it squirmed underneath him and across the line.

Coutinho added a third for Barcelona on the hour-mark as he rifled a sublime effort into the top corner to send the Catalan side into the next round.

But the story could have been vastly different had United taken their early chances.

Paul Pogba’s clever through-ball split the Barcelona defence and allowed Marcus Rashford to dart forward, but the young striker struck well over the bar from a tight angle.

Pogba featured again as he recycled a poor Ashley Young corner by sending into the penalty area, although it trickled harmlessly wide of Marc-André ter Stegen’s goal.

Having suffered a slow opening ten minutes Valverde’s side suddenly awoke with a bang. The hosts thought they had been awarded a penalty when Fred and Ivan Rakitic collided in the box, but the initial decision was reversed after a VAR review.

Although Barca did not have to wait long as four minutes later Messi opened his account, nestling an excellent curling shot into the bottom left corner on sixteen minutes.

Having been kept quiet during the first leg, Messi made the capacity Nou Camp crowd fully aware of his ability as he doubled Barca’s lead on twenty minutes. The Argentine turned well under pressure and fizzed a shot towards goal, it seemed a comfortable save for De Gea but the Spaniard let the ball slip underneath him and across the line.

Barcelona could have extended their lead further when Messi’s freekick picked out Rakitic, but the Croatian was unable to beat De Gea from close range.

The hosts had another late chance before half-time to score but De Gea produced an excellent save to deny Suarez from close range after Messi showed great ability to turn away from Phil Jones and slide Jordi Alba down the left-wing.

It was a near-perfect performance from Messi. The Argentine came remarkably close to completing his hat-trick early in the second half. A low cross fell to the Barca top-scorer whom looked for the bottom corner and his effort would have likely nestled there had it not been for a Chris Smalling deflection.

Barcelona’s passage into the semi-finals were eventually confirmed on the hour-mark courtesy of a stunning strike from Coutinho. The former Liverpool midfielder shuffled into space and, after hard-work from Alba and Messi, the Brazilian executed a sublime strike into the top corner.

Messi was handed another chance to wrap up his hat-trick when Jones’ clearing header fell short, but the Argentine’s acrobatic effort spun narrowly wide of the post.

The heavy defeat United were facing clearly rattled the Red Devils as Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer’s side struggled to deal with the Catalan giants, but substitute Jesse Lingard provided a rare moment of attacking intent for the English side as he lashed a shot past the post from 25 yards out.

But that final Lingard chance was all it proved to be for United as they failed to muster anything else as they exited the Champions League as a result of a Messi masterclass and Coutinho wonderstrike.


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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