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Messi masterclass crushes Bayer

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By David Redshaw

Thursday 08 March 2012

Five-goal Lionel Messi delivered a masterclass in finishing to crush Bayer Leverkusen as Barcelona strolled into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 7-1 victory at the Camp Nou.

Messi opened the scoring on 25 minutes when he got free down the left following a Xavi Hernández pass and scooped the ball past goalkeeper Bernd Leno. He then got his second just before the break, firing into the bottom corner after being set up by Cesc Fabregas, and four minutes into the second half notched his hat-trick from a right-footed lob with Fabregas once more the provider.

Substitute Cristian Tello scored the fourth from another Fabregas pass on 55 minutes before Messi added his own fourth of the night two minutes later, tapping in after Leno had failed to gather the ball. Tello made it 6-0 and four goals in 13 minutes after 62 minutes when his shot squirmed under the goalkeeper’s body and Messi completed his own personal milestone of being the first player to score five in a Champions League game five minutes from time, steering a shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.

Karim Bellarabi got one back for the Germans in stoppage time but it was scant consolation as Pep Guardiola’s men stormed to a 10-2 aggregate victory, having now hit the back of the net 88 times at the Camp Nou this season with Messi equalling Alfredo di Stéfano’s record of 49 European Cup goals.

Boss Guardiola afterwards hailed Messi the best in the world and said it would be the player himself who decided if he wanted to give up that mantle or not.

“The throne is his and he alone will decide when to quit,” said Guardiola, after comparing the Argentine international to such greats as Pelé, Cruyff, Maradona and Di Stéfano. “He is the best. There is nobody else and I am fortunate to be and have been this player’s Coach. I will always be able to say I coached him. He is unique because of his inbred talent and capacity to compete,” he added.

Guardiola also praised his team’s attitude, particularly against a side that had knocked Valencia out of the group phases and beat Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last week.

“The important thing was to qualify but my players did well for the fans that came and those who watched on television,” he said, before stating he did not want to come across Milan in the last eight having already met them in the group stages.

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