Here’s what happened in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, in case you missed it…
READ ALL ABOUT IT
• Tuesday’s roundup: Messi scores two in Barcelona’s rout of Roma
BATE Borisov 1, Bayer Leverkusen 1 || Zenit Saint Petersburg 2, Valencia 0 || Arsenal 3, Dinamo Zagreb 0 || FC Barcelona 6, AS Roma 1 || Bayern Munich 4, Olympiacos 0 || Porto 0, Dynamo Kyiv 2 || Lyon 1, Gent 2 || Maccabi Tel Aviv 0, Chelsea 4 ||
THE MAIN STORY
Barca crushes Roma in Messi’s return
On a day with goals galore and a number of blowouts it was Barcelona’s demolition of Roma at the Camp Nou that stood out the most. The Catalans were merciless in shipping six goals past the Giallorossi, as Lionel Messi bagged a brace in his first start in close to two months following an injury layoff. Barca is through to the knockout round for the 12th consecutive season, and based on current form they look a very good bet to repeat as European champions.
Lest you think this Barca side is powered just by the exploits of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, think again. This is a well-balance team that plays as a cohesive unit, as evidenced by the buildup play that led to their second goal—all 11 Barca players had a touch on the ball during a mesmerizing 29-pass sequence before Messi majestically chipped Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
This was no chump team that Barcelona destroyed, either. Roma is one of the best clubs in Serie A, and deservedly played the Spanish powerhouse to a 1-1 draw back in Italy on Matchday One. But on this day they were no match for a Blaugrana side that ripped them to ribbons with their quick passing, incredible on-field vision and swift movement on and off the ball.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez form the Holy Trinity, one of the best trios in the modern era of the sport—even better, dare we say, than Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. With Messi back on the beat, Barca looks unstoppable, head and shoulders above the rest of the European field, with the exception of Bayern Munich. Even the Germans, though, might not be able to stop them.
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There were lots of candidates, but I’ll go with Luis Suarez’ fabulous volley from 12 yards out off a Roma headed clearance.
Just before halftime BATE goalkeeper Sergei Chernik made a fantastic reflex stop by kicking out his left leg to rob Javier Hernandez from inside the six-yard box.
It has to be the crowd reaction in Belarus when BATE Borisov’s Mikhail Gordeichuk’s tame shot skidded through the legs of Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno and into the back of the net. Pure bedlam in the terraces!
There were a number of blowouts, so as far as competitive games the pickings were mighty slim. Still, it was pretty special watching Barcelona totally dominate Roma and ship six goals past the Italians. An awe-inspiring display from the Catalans.
“Now we’re going to play for our lives,” Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin said of the Gunners’ final group stage match away to Olympiacos
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Bayer Leverkusen’s Admir Mehmedi is only one of five players to score in each of his first four Champions League games for a club: Diego Costa, Jose Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi.
• Barcelona’s 6-1 destruction of Roma was the biggest win by a Spanish side over an Italian team in European competition.
• Luis Suarez is the first South American player to score 13 goals in his first 20 Champions League games.
• Petr Cech appeared in his 109th Champions League match, tying Paolo Maldini and Gary Neville for 13th place on the all-time list.
• Gent’s 2-1 victory over Lyon is the first road win by a Belgian club in the Champions League in 3640 days.
• At 26 years and 72 days, Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller is the youngest layer to reach 50 Champions League wins.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan bagged a brilliant brace and was the driving force behind a Barca’s awesome attack.
2) Lionel Messi: Scored twice in his first start in two months after a lengthy injury layoff. Didn’t look rusty at all.
3) Alexis Sanchexz and Mesut Ozil: The dynamic duo combined for three goals for Arsenal as the Gunners stayed alive.
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