Lionel Messi put Barcelona on the verge of the Champions League final with a devastating double in a 3-0 home win over Liverpool in the first leg of their last-four clash on Wednesday, taking his goal tally for the Catalans to 600.
The Argentine’s milestone goal was a moment of brilliance as he curled a dazzling free kick into the top corner from distance to add gloss to a scoreline that did not reflect the balance of play.
Yet whereas Barcelona took their chances with clinical precision, Liverpool wasted a string of opportunities that fell their way.
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez reminded the visitors of his superb finishing by opening the scoring in the 26th minute of a tense and finely-balanced first half at the Nou Camp, darting between two Liverpool defenders to divert Jordi Alba’s cross into the net.
Barca captain Messi scored the all-important second goal of the night in the 75th minute, chesting the ball down on the rebound and dribbling it over the line after Suarez had hammered the crossbar with a shot with his knee.
The Argentine then added to Barca’s already huge advantage to take into next Tuesday’s second leg at Anfield by smashing home his sizzling free kick in the 82nd minute.
“Four goals would have been better than three but this is a very good result,” Messi told reporters.
“We know that the tie isn’t over, Anfield is a very difficult place to go but we’re happy with the super game we played tonight. They clearly wanted to score because an away goal means a lot but they didn’t and we have a great advantage.”