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Barca star scores twice, sets up Dembele as Catalan giants’

Barcelona, Thursday @PeopleSports11

This stuff doesn’t happen by accident, you know. The first time Lionel Messi stuck the ball through Thibaut Courtois’s legs from a seemingly impossible angle it was possible to fool yourself that, well, he might have got a little fortunate there. The second time, there could be no doubt.

Messi shoots from places that no other footballer would, he is capable of targeting areas of the goal, or of a person, with a precision that is quite breathtaking. It is remarkable that Barcelona ever lose a game with a player of his talent on tap, remarkable that he doesn’t just score several this way each time he plays, considering he seems able to pass through the thigh gap at will.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, his Champions League ambitions laid to waste, walked off having given Messi an affectionate cuddle. That might not have gone down well with those who demand pure tribalism but, as a football man, we understand. Sometimes you just have to say well done.

Alan Shearer thinks we are witnesses to the greatest footballer there has ever been, on nights like this he makes a very appealing case. Chelsea weren’t bad here, whatever the scoreline might suggest.

They were better than Manchester United against Sevilla on Tuesday and certainly not embarrassed. They just made mistakes. And every time they did, Barcelona scored. Every time, without fail, across two legs.

Andreas Christensen, Courtois, Cesc Fabregas, Cesar Azpilicueta, every Barcelona goal had a different abetter from Chelsea’s ranks. The experienced ones, on Wednesday night, too. Veterans of World Cup finals and huge European games.

They each committed the cardinal sin. If you can’t give a sucker an even break, you certainly can’t give three to a team like Barcelona. They are brutal in making it count, clinical in the finish in a way Chelsea were not.

And in Messi they have a player who scores goals from angles the Greek giants of trigonometry didn’t know had been contemplated. There is no sliver of the penalty area from which the goal can be made safe.

That is the only mitigation in Courtois’s defence. What was said before this tie? That Chelsea are Messi’s bogey team and he doesn’t score against them. Seems to have put that one to bed, don’t you think? Barcelona scored four over the two legs, Messi got three and made the other. -DAILYMAIL

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