Magical Messi ruins Guardiola homecoming
Lionel Messi struck twice and set up Neymar in the last 13 minutes as Barcelona beat Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg, ensuring Pep Guardiola’s Camp Nou homecoming ended in misery.
On his 100th appearance in European football, Messi’s double moved him back ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo as the all-time leading scorer with 77 in the Champions League and Barca to the brink of their first final in four years.
Manuel Neuer had kept Bayern in the game with a string of fine saves, but was helpless as Messi drilled home the opener from the edge of the area in the 77th minute and then delightfully chipped the German three minutes later.
Messi then fed Neymar in stoppage time to roll past Neuer and hand Bayern an almost impossible task in next week’s second-leg.
“The result is a bit harsh. We wanted to control and play our own game,” said Bayern boss Guardiola, a former Barca coach. “Against Barca you can defend deep or play to control.
Our control in the first-half worked pretty well, especially in the final 15 minutes.
“After the 1-0 it sapped our confidence a bit, the last goal is a shame because at 2-0 we had a chance but 3-0 is difficult.”
Victory takes Barca a step closer to just the second treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in the club’s history.
“It is a perfect result,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“It brings us closer to a possible final, but we have to confirm it in the second-leg, which will without doubt be a hard game. “I am very satisfied with how we played and the result against such a strong team. We had a lot of chances and they had very few.”
Guardiola is Barca’s most successful ever coach having won 14 trophies in four years between 2008 and 2012 and was given a warm reception by the home fans as he took his seat for the first time in the away dugout.
However, his early tactical plan to play three at the back nearly proved costly.
Bayern’s intense pressing was forcing Barca to play long more than they are accustomed to, but it nearly worked to perfection when Messi’s headed flick-on sent Luis Suarez clear behind the Bayern defence after 12 minutes.
Neuer, though, stood up brilliantly to divert the Uruguayan’s effort to safety with an outstretched right leg.
Suarez turned provider for the next opening as his low cross picked out Neymar only for his goalbound effort to strike Rafinha and deflect behind. The visitors then had a huge chance of their own as Thomas Mueller picked out the unmarked Robert Lewandowski, but the Polish international -- who was playing with a protective facemask after suffering a broken nose and cheekbone just last week -- sliced his effort wide.
Neuer came to Bayern’s rescue again six minutes before the break, spreading himself to deny Dani Alves as he latched onto Andres Iniesta’s through ball.