Champions League - Messi hits five for Barca
Lionel Messi scored five goals, a Champions League record, as Barcelona thrashed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at the Camp Nou to win their last-16 tie 10-2 on aggregate.
Messi netted with two lobs, a fine low drive, a close-range finish and a long-range screamer to make history for the umpteenth time in his short career.
Youngster Cristian Tello scored twice on his European debut as the German side – and young keeper Bernd Leno – fell to pieces in the Catalan amphitheatre.
The best goal actually fell to Leverkusen sub Karim Bellarabi, who curled in a superb finish at the end of the match, scant consolation but worthy of a handshake between Pep Guardiola and opposite number Robin Dutt.
It was a night for the statisticians: in addition to being the first Champions League five-goal haul, Messi’s fourth hat-trick-plus of the season took him to a joint-record 12 goals in seven matches in the competition, 53 for club and country this campaign, and a club total seven short of Cesar Rodriguez’s all-time Barcelona record of 235.
Given current form, he should expect to top that by the end of March.
It was also a night to mark the arrival of yet another product of the seemingly endless stream of La Masia talent as Tello, 20, hit the back of the net within a minute of coming off the bench before adding a second and almost grabbing a hat-trick, his first sublime touches in the Champions League.
Guardiola’s side – out of touch of Real Madrid in La Liga – may not be in their best form of recent years but, leading 3-1 from the away leg, they were more than a match for an at-times woeful Leverkusen, barely escaping second gear in a match they dominated from whistle to whistle.
World Player of the Year Messi was denied early on by a smart save from Leno – who started well but seemed to break after the fourth went in – with Gonzalo Castro blocking Cesc Fabregas’s follow-up on the line as Barca passed their guests into submission.
Midway through the first half Leno made another great save as Gerard Pique, starting despite his Liga red card and ref rant at the weekend, flicked on a Xavi free-kick, but the 20-year-old was only delaying the inevitable.
A few minutes later Messi sprung the offside trap with a clever diagonal run, racing clean through and scooping an audacious chip over the advancing Leno and into the empty net to make it 4-1 on aggregate.
He almost doubled his tally just after the half-hour mark, cutting inside from the right before unleashing a finish that defender Omer Toprak somehow blocked; he did double the haul in almost identical circumstances a few minutes before the break, no-one able to halt his progress as he evaded three challenges and fired home a low finish.
Leno had time to make a superb double-save before the break as he denied Fabregas and Pedro in quick succession, but he was at fault later on as Barca overran the visitors in the second half.
The second half started ominously enough as Barca spurned an early chance of a third as Fabregas, Iniesta, Messi and co. tried to pass the ball into the back of the net.
They did not overcook their next goal though when, soon after, Messi completed his treble as he raced on to a long pass, held off Daniel Schwaab and once more scooped a cheeky chip over the keeper.
Down the other end Eren Derdiyok had been trying to put his sizeable frame about and he nearly scored from an acute angle, the chipped finish past Victor Valdes dropping just short, but it was a brief interruption to the Catalan Express as Tello – seconds after coming on – dinked a neat finish past Leno after Fabregas’s superb through ball.
That was the point at which Leverkusen fully collapsed as Barca scored a couple more within seven minutes, thanks to inept defending and fragile goalkeeping.
First Leno spilled the ball, his defenders comically slow to react and Messi able to squeeze a finish across the line and in from a very tight angle.
Next up the visiting defence allowed Daniel Alves to surge fully 40 yards before sweeping an uninterrupted pass to the completely unmarked Tello, who had time and space to pick his finish: he got it wrong, but it was helped into goal by a hapless Leno.
Leverkusen – and Leno – managed to regain their composure for a while, sitting deep and largely keeping it tight as the keeper managed to make some good interventions, denying Tello a remarkable cameo hat-trick with a smart one-on-one save.
But Barca’s seventh and Messi’s record-breaking fifth came with five minutes left, the Argentine wizard unleashing a piledriver after a glorious flick from sub Seydou Keita played him into space on the edge of the box.
It made Bellarabi’s fine curling finish after a one-two with Simon Rolfes little more than a footnote, a shame for the 21-year-old former Eintracht Braunschweig forward, who scored his first league goal at the weekend.
The single bright spot for Leverkusen was duly noted by both coaches, who shared an embrace and a laugh before the final whistle, but Leverkusen return to Germany humbled and with a tough job to regain focus as they try to improve from fifth place in the Bundesliga to a qualification spot for next season’s Champions League.
Barca, meanwhile, know La Liga is probably beyond even them - leaders Real are 10 points clear - but they are favourites for a Cup double, with a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao to come.