After unfurling a banner showing the words ‘God Save The King’ before kickoff, Barca’s fans were celebrating after just 129 seconds at the
He then teed up Ousmane Dembele to double Barca’s lead in the second leg of the last-16 clash before registering a century of Champions League goals on his 123rd appearance to complete a 3-0 victory on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.
Messi becomes only the second player to reach the milestone in
By the end, the Argentinian’s scintillating breakaway in the build-up to Dembele’s first
It caps a remarkable five days for the 30-year-old, who sat out Saturday’s La Liga win over
Chelsea, in touch after the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, were therefore unfortunate enough to encounter the striker fresh, free and at his frighteningly brilliant best.
At the finish,
Conte’s team had chances, particularly in the first half, but the sense was once
With Manchester United dumped out by Sevilla and Tottenham outmanouevred by Juventus, Chelsea’s exit means for all the talk of a Premier League resurgence, Liverpool and Manchester City are its only two representatives in the quarter-finals.
Andres Iniesta shook off a hamstring strain to start, while Dembele was a surprise inclusion, preferred to Paulinho and rewarded for his excellent display against
Conte, meanwhile, plumped for Olivier Giroud up front ahead of both Alvaro Morata, who was on the bench, and Eden Hazard, who was granted his wish to play deeper in attacking midfield.
Within three minutes, however, Chelse’s plan to frustrate was spoiled. Messi started the move and finished it, with Dembele, Luis Suarez and a deflection off Marcos Alonso, helping him find the space to fire through the legs of Thibaut Courtois for the fastest goal of his career.
Cesc Fabregas failed to secure possession in midfield and Messi was away, skipping past a desperate lunge from Andreas Christensen before taking the whole stadium by surprise by squaring to the back post.
The excellent Dembele took one touch and slammed the ball into the top corner.
Alonso and N’Golo Kante both went close before halftime, the latter arguably robbing Fabregas of an easier finish with the Spaniard’s right foot.
Alonso then clipped the edge of the post with a bending free kick just before halftime.
After an hour, however, any hopes
Messi took over, tearing past the rooted Moses and banging the ball, again through the legs of Courtois, into the net.
Antonio Rudiger headed against the bar late on, but Chelsea could not even find the scantest of consolations. Messi’s work was done.