Five-goal Messi sends Barça through
Lionel Messi scored an impressive five goals as defending champions Barcelona defeated unfortunate Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 to confirm their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Barça had been understated but superior in the first leg in Germany, winning 3-1, and were expected to ease through in tonight's return match. However, they played with trademark hunger under Pep Guardiola as Messi became the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League game, while substitute Cristian Tello added two in a performance of startling brilliance. Karim Bellarabi managed a consolation in added time.
"I'm happy, it's great to score a five, but the important thing tonight was the win and to qualify for the quarter-finals," Messi said. "Now, no matter who we meet, it's going to be very complicated, there are only good sides left in. We know it's hard for us in the Liga (against Real Madrid), but we want to defend our Champions League title and we are also keeping in our minds on the Spanish Cup."
Meanwhile, team-mate Cesc Fabregas gushed praises for the goalscorer. "You can expect anything from Leo [Messi]," said team-mate Cesc Fabregas. "He is the best player in history, we have never seen anyone like him. He didn't play at the weekend and he wanted to do well. He enjoys being on the pitch and we are happy to have him."
Leverkusen had travelled to the Nou Camp in confident mood after winning their third straight Bundesliga game at the weekend. A 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich has boosted the club's chances of qualifying for the Champions League again next season, but despite being heavy underdogs to progress to the last eight, they had not fully given up on remaining in the competition a little longer this year.
But they were hanging on in the tenth minute as Barça suddenly burst forward. Messi's run into the box saw him meet Fabregas' sublime lofted ball and only a sharp reflex save by Bernd Leno stopped them from opening the scoring, before Gonzalo Castro blocked Pedro's shot on the rebound.
Xavi tried his luck with a free-kick and Lars Bender had a shot at the other end saved relatively easily by Victor Valdes. Xavi whipped in a 23rd-minute free-kick that was nearly nodded in by Gerard Pique but Leno made the left-handed save.
Barcelona took the lead in the 25th minute, though as Xavi teamed up with Messi delightfully, the midfielder chipping an inch-perfect ball over the halfway line which Messi collected before producing a cheeky lob over Leno's left shoulder.
Leverkusen midfielder Simon Rolfes had a shot blocked and the contest was essentially over as Messi scored a trademark second three minutes before the break, easily dancing his way inside after receiving Andres Iniesta's pass before producing a left-footed finish to make it 2-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.
The second half began as the first ended. Fabregas produced a similar pass to Xavi's for the first goal, lofting the ball over perfectly to leave Leverkusen's high-defensive line stranded as Messi took it on before chipping Leno once more in the 49th minute.
Striker Eren Derdiyok showed great strength to hold off Javier Mascherano inside the box only to see his delicate cross-shot come to nothing. Substitute Tello then made it 4-0 in the 55th minute as he was put through on the left by Fabregas before slotting home right-footed.
Three minutes later the humiliation continued as Messi got his fourth, dinking the ball carefully in off the post. Debutant Tello got his second just after the hour mark when Leverkusen afforded him a ludicrous amount of space and Dani Alves picked him out with a pinpoint cross to side-foot home.
Messi then made history with his fifth of the night five minutes from time, becoming the first player to score that many goals in a single game as he bent home a left-footed strike with alarming simplicity to make it 12 goals in seven European appearances this season.
So one-sided was the clash that Guardiola and counterpart Robin Dutt shared a celebratory cuddle when substitute Bellarabi took Rolfes' pass and curled it past Victor Valdes for a stylish consolation in the last minute.