Four-goal Messi stuns Arsenal

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Barcelona 4 Arsenal 1 (Barcelona win 6-3 on aggregate)

Lionel Messi lived up to his billing as the best player in the world with four goals to end Arsenal's Champions League dream in the Nou Camp.

Nicklas Bendtner had fired the Gunners into a shock lead on 18 minutes. However, Messi soon drew Barcelona level after capitalising on a mistake by Mikael Silvestre.

The Argentina forward then added a second from close range before dashing clear to make it 3-1 on the night just before the break, and grabbed a fourth with three minutes left to complete a comfortable 6-3 aggregate victory for the tournament holders.

Arsene Wenger's injury-hit squad - without the likes of captain Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song - must now regroup and focus on overhauling Chelsea and Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League title race.

Arsenal, playing in their white change kit, looked determined not to be overrun as they had during the opening exchanges of the first leg.

Barcelona, however, created an couple of chances when Xavi, captain for the night in the absence of suspended Carles Puyol, flicked the ball wide before Messi fired an angled shot just over the bar in a sign of things to come.

The English side, though, snatched a shock lead on their first real chance after 18 minutes.

Theo Walcott was put clear by Abou Diaby down the right, and he dashed into the Barca penalty area before squaring to Bendtner.

Victor Valdes made a good reaction save, but the in-form Denmark striker was quick to stab the rebound into the net and put the English team ahead in the tie for the first time.

The Gunners then wasted another chance of a breakaway, as Diaby pushed the ball left to Bendtner when Walcott was in space on the right.

It proved a costly error as Barcelona went up the other end to equalise on 21 minutes.

Silvestre, in the side ahead of veteran Sol Campbell who was not fully fit, failed to clear the ball on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area - and Messi needed no second invitation, lashing his shot into the top right corner.

Messi continued to torment Arsenal as he collected the ball on the right touchline before weaving into the box and drilling a shot into the side netting.

Arsenal were again punished by Messi for some poor defending as Barcelona went 2-1 ahead on 37 minutes.

Eric Abidal crossed the ball into the Arsenal box from the right, which was cut out by Thomas Vermaelen. However, his team-mates were slow to react as Pedro knocked the loose ball out to Messi - and he smashed it past Almunia.

The Argentina international completed a stunning hat-trick four minutes before the break when he latched onto a header from Abidal to race clear before dispatching a brilliant chip over the Arsenal keeper.

Messi nearly had another at the start of the second half when Pedro whipped a low ball across the Arsenal six-yard box from the right, which was just too far ahead of the Barcelona forward.

Arsenal had little choice but to go forwards, but that left the visitors exposed at the back.

The visitors nearly found away through when Diaby stabbed the ball to Bendtner just inside the Barcelona box, but the Denmark striker was hustle out of possession before he could shoot.

Then when left-back Gael Clichy broke and fed Bendtner, the home defence again got back in numbers to clear.

Diaby's low ball across the edge of the Barcelona box went all the way through to Tomas Rosicky, but the Czech snatched at his shot, which flew harmlessly wide.

Messi's clever quick free-kick released Pedro, but his angled chip was off target, before at the other end Bendtner's header crashed against the post - but the offside flag was up.

With 18 minutes left, Wenger sent on Eduardo for Rosicky, with Samir Nasri moving out to the left in a 4-4-2.

Clichy knocked Alves off the ball to charge forwards, but, with team-mates well placed, drilled an ambitious shot over from 20 yards.

Maxwell forced Almunia into a good save at his near post after cutting into the right side of the Arsenal penalty area.

Messi then completed a fine night's work with another well-taken goal three minutes from time as the holders marched on towards a mouth-watering semi-final clash against Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum