Champions League - Wenger hails rampant Messi

Eurosport - Tue, 06 Apr 22:08:00 2010

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger saluted Lionel Messi after the Argentine scored all four goals in Barcelona's 4-1 victory at Camp Nou that ended the Gunners' Champions League dream.

Messi Almunia Barcelona Arsenal 2010 - 0

If it was Barca's team play that ripped the Londoners to shreds in the first hour of last week's first leg, it was the sublime talent of the Argentina international that propelled Pep Guardiola's side to a 6-3 aggregate victory and set up a last-four clash with Internazionale.

Arsenal grabbed a shock lead through Nicklas Bendtner in the 18th minute but from then on it was all about Messi, the 22-year-old scoring goals of sheer class in the 21st, 37th and 42nd minutes to all but kill off the visitors' hopes.

With two minutes of normal time remaining, Messi completed his virtuoso display with a fourth after pouncing on a rebound to drill the ball low through the legs of Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Wenger said: "We had chances, but when you have players like Lionel Messi you pay for any mistakes you make. He's the best player in the world by a large distance.

"He's not always in the game, but when he gets on the ball he's unstoppable. When he changes direction at such pace no-one can stay with him.

"Congratulations to Barcelona, they are better than us."

Bendtner and Almunia were also quick to praise the player whose fourth goal took his tally in the competition to eight, putting him top of the scoring chart, and added to the FIFA World Player of the Year's 26 La Liga goals this season.

"If you are going to lose a game, you want to do it by another team playing you off the pitch. We did well, but they were just too strong. Lionel is a phenomenal player and he showed it again tonight," said Bendtner.

Arsenal captain Almunia added: "I think he's the best player I've ever faced and he's the best player in the world, yeah. It's very difficult to stop someone who has so many skills like that, who can do whatever they want with the ball."

Messi was typically humble after the game.

"We started badly but ended in spectacular fashion," he told Spanish television. "I am very pleased but the important thing is that the team keeps winning."

Reuters / Eurosport

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