Pep Guardiola was left scratching his head in despair once again on his second return to the Camp Nou and it was that man Lionel Messi that did the damage yet again.
Lionel Messi in the Champions League this season:
7 shots on target
6 chances created
He’s played 2 games. 😶 pic.twitter.com/7QzY7VfSC6
— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) October 20, 2016
City pressed and harassed Barça from the beginning and half chances fell to both teams before Messi fired the hosts into the lead on the 17-minute mark after a slip from Fernandinho allowed the five-time Balon d’Or winner to latch onto the ball and round Claudio Bravo in goal to put the 2015 champions 1-0 up.
Two of Barcelona’s back four limped off as both Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique gave way and Guardiola’s men more than matched Barça, creating several clear cut chances, yet failing to capitalize as John Stones headed wide, Ilkay Gundogan saw his shot saved smartly and Kevin De Bruyne missed another.
In their previous visits to Barcelona in the Champions League they had not managed to do this. For the first time, this was competitive. Yet the score was 1-0 to the hosts at the break.
Again, City started the half strongly but Claudio Bravo, a goalkeeper purchased from Barça for his expertise with his feet made an awful mistake just eight minutes into the second period.
In presenting the ball to Luis Suarez in the 53rd minute, Bravo was forced to save the resulting shot and was sent off for handling outside the penalty area.
It was a horror moment and it sunk City. Already a goal down to Messi’s early strike, the visitors were nevertheless well in the game until that moment and Pep Guardiola described the mistake as one that “killed us” afterwards, yet confided in his goalkeeper and demanded that he will stick by his methods and goalkeeper.
Playing with 11 men against Barcelona at the Camp Nou is incredibly difficult, playing with 10 is almost impossible.
Even on a night where the hosts were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, they managed to brush aside the Premier League leaders and found their star man three times and the second of which saw him collect the ball on the right before shifting inside to place the ball into the bottom corner from 20-yards out. 2-0. Trademark Messi.
IMAGE: Player with most Champions League hat-tricks. Lionel Messi is at top with 7 CL hat-tricks. [Squawka] pic.twitter.com/GKMTMrhNhy
— Barça News Forum (@BarcaNewsForum) October 19, 2016
Eight minutes later, it was 3-0 and that man again. A stray Gundogan pass saw John Stones wrong-footed and as Suarez bared down on substitute goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Messi caught up with the Uruguayan and after a perfectly weighted pass via the sole of Gael Clichy‘s boot, Messi clinically slotted home to complete his second hat-trick in his second Champions League game this season.
Lionel Messi in the Champions League:
– 108 Games
– 91 Goals
– 25 Assists
The greatest ever 🙌 pic.twitter.com/6S0UugXdzv
— Uber Football Facts (@UberFootbalI) October 20, 2016
Gerard Pique’s replacement Jeremy Mathieu picked up two needless yellow cards in the space of a couple of minutes and the game was now 10 against 10 with over 15 minutes remaining.
More chances arrived to both teams in a spectacularly open encounter and as Raheem Sterling and De Bruyne were wasteful at one end, Lionel Messi wasn’t at the other. After evading a challenge before showcasing glorious skill to skip past another, Messi was brought down by Kolarov before selflessly handing the ball to Neymar to take the spot kick.
The Brazilian saw his penalty saved by Caballero but made amends moments later. Again it was Messi who cut inside before teeing up the Brazilian once again, this time he beat two challenges before sliding the ball home for 4-0.
A surreal game between two attacking teams that were out to play total football and the scoreline somewhat flattered Barcelona who were cut open by City multiple times.
In the end, the difference between two excellent outfits was Lionel Messi.