Champions League: Guardiola’s homecoming ruined by mesmeric Messi

Ross McLean
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Lionel Messi’s two goals established a commanding lead for Barcelona against Bayern Munich, taking his tally in the competition to 77

BARCELONA boss Luis Enrique revelled in the unique talent of Lionel Messi after the mesmeric forward’s stunning double fired his side into a commanding first-leg lead in their Champions League semi-final clash at Camp Nou last night.

The hosts endured a frustrating evening against a stubborn Bayern Munich outfit until two goals from Messi – taking his tally in the Champions League to 77 – and a stoppage-time Neymar strike gave the Catalans a commanding cushion ahead of next week’s second leg.

Bayern’s former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola endured a miserable first return to the club he managed so successfully between 2008-2012, a period in which he won 14 trophies including two Champions League titles.

“With Messi, football is easier. He’s a player from another dimension. And we can enjoy him every day,” said Enrique, who has won 45 of his first 53 matches in charge of Barcelona, compared to Guardiola’s 39 victories.

“Messi surprises each game. Not only will I stick with his masterpiece but the whole team worked hard.

“It’s the perfect result, it brings us closer to the final but we should confirm this in the second leg. It has been a good night, no doubt, but the best night is yet to come.”

German champions Bayern were indebted to Manuel Neuer for maintaining parity at the break, as the World Cup-winning keeper made a superb save to deny rampaging full-back Dani Alves, while Luis Suarez headed a presentable chance over the crossbar.

Barcelona’s breakthrough came in the 77th minute when Bayern conceded cheap possession in the left-back area, allowing Messi to flash a low effort beyond Neuer from the edge of the penalty area, after been found by Alves.

Three minutes later Barcelona doubled their advantage and took a huge step towards their first Champions League final since 2011. Messi menaced and completely outwitted Bayern defender Jerome Boateng before clipping the ball over the advancing Neuer.

The hosts established an imposing advantage in advance of the return tie at the Allianz Arena when Messi’s pass sent Neymar clean through and the Brazil playmaker feigned to shoot before slotting home.

Bayern failed to register single effort on goal in the entire match, the first time the Bavarians had proven so shot-shy in a Champions League fixture since October 2009 and a clash with Bordeaux.

The result exacted some form of revenge for Barcelona following their 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Bayern at this stage of the competition in 2013. Only Deportivo La Coruna in 2004 have overturned a three-goal Champions League deficit in the second leg.

“There’s no team, no system or coach who can stop Messi. You can’t plan against talent,” said Guardiola, whose teams have kept just four clean sheets in 17 Champions League knockout matches.

“Of course we’re sad. The talent of Barca’s players has made the difference. We were lacking in attack.

“I couldn’t come here and the park the bus against players at this level. We were 15 minutes away from a good result.”