Barcelona vs Bayern Munich match report: Lionel Messi double and Neymar strike put Barca on course for Champions League final

Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0

Pete Jenson
Wednesday 06 May 2015 23:14
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Lionel Messi celebrates one of his two goals
Lionel Messi celebrates one of his two goals

Pep Guardiola was right. That much talent really is unstoppable.

Lionel Messi beat the best goalkeeper in the world twice here and beat his former manager in the process in a Champions League semi-final first leg– no wonder he celebrated as he has never done before.

He has spent the last seven years scoring goals just like the two he netted late in the second half against Bayern Munich but no sooner had the net bulged behind Manuel Neuer for the first, than he raced towards the corner flag behind the north goal at the Nou Camp to celebrate.

And after leaving Jérôme Boateng sprawling in the penalty area and dinking in the second, he practically threw himself at the same corner flag to celebrate, having doubled Barcleona’s lead. Nothing stops Messi, not even Neuer.

Neymar added a third in a one-on-one with Neuer as Barcelona took a giant stride towards the final.

The duel between goalkeeper and No 10 dominated the night, however. For so long it appeared that there would be nothing between the immovable object and the irresistible force but, with the clock ticking down, Messi found Neuer’s left-hand corner with a shot hit so quickly that even the world champion goalkeeper was too slow to stop it.

Once the knife had gone in it was twisted when Ivan Rakitic’s pass found the Champions League all-time leading scorer and he made it 2-0 on the night.

Barcelona were clearly troubled by Bayern’s early pressure but Messi calmed the nerves when he nutmegged Bastian Schweinsteiger, shuffled past Juan Bernat and also seemed to brush Sergio Busquets aside as he moved into space. The move broke down but from Barcelona’s next attack, Luis Suarez shot and Neuer saved. The goalkeeper and the Uruguay striker clashed again when the former charged out of his goal and Suarez very nearly got to the ball first.

The start of the match was frantic, and Suarez should have put Barcelona ahead when Messi played him through. It was the most in-form forward in 2015 against the best goalkeeper in the world. Suarez’s first touch was good and he got power into the shot but Neuer saved with an outstretched right boot.

Suarez then wriggled past Boateng to the byline and pulled the back to Neymar, who from four yards out allowed Rafinha to make a miraculous clearance. The German side had now been let off twice but at the other end they had their golden opportunity. Thomas Müller fizzed a ball across the face of the penalty area and the masked man Robert Lewandowski slid in but missed the ball by inches.

The biggest surprise after 20 minutes was the 0-0 scoreline and when Messi ran between Xabi Alonso and Schweinsteiger and curled a cross-shot goalwards, the Nou Camp crowd held its breath but the ball ran wide.

Suarez was the next to go close with a header just too high from Rakitic’s corner. The Uruguayan had come out to the right to allow Messi to play through the middle and he spun away from Boateng, but his pass was too close to Neuer to set Messi clear.

Thiago, playing against his former club, curled a shot just wide of the post of Marc-André ter Stegen’s in the home goal. And Barcelona immediately launched their next attack but Medhi Benatia dumping Suarez down to cut it short.

There was still no time to draw breath. With the speed at which the game was being played, some of the precision was being lost and there was also a sense of genius cancelling out genius – when Alonso was booked for bringing down Messi, the Argentine’s free-kick might have beaten lesser keepers but was swallowed up by Neuer – the Ballon d’Or against the golden gloves.

Neuer shone again moments later when Dani Alves charged through, the German again sticking out his right leg and blocking the shot. Could it really finish goalless – the zero-zero that Guardiola had said would be impossible?

The tempo did not subside after the break and Messi shot from the edge of the area after Neymar laid the ball off to him. Again Neuer made the save with ease. The man who shared the Ballon d’Or stage with Messi in January gives Bayern so much security – always showing for the ball, always quick off his line and always there with a hand or, more often than not, a right boot to save the shot. In the home of the famous “more than a club” mantra, he was showing why he is so much more than a goalkeeper.

With the intensity still not subsiding, the tackles began to arrive later and later. Both Neymar and Gerard Pique were booked inside two minutes, joining Alves, Bernat and Benatia in referee Nicola Rizzoli’s book.

When 77 minutes showed on the stadium clock, Bayern were still on the road to Berlin. What happened next left them likely to be back in Munich watching the final at home. First Messi drilled his shot past Neuer. Then he made it two from Rakitic’s pass. And with Xavi on playing his last minutes of European football in the Nou Camp and Barcelona happy with a two-goal margin, Messi slipped in Neymar and he put the tie virtually beyond doubt.

Neuer had been beaten three times and Messi had written another page in his incredible history. As Guardiola had said before the game: “You can defend well, you can close the space, you can cut off the supply but you can’t stop Messi.”

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