Two late moments of Lionel Messi magic and a goal from Neymar helped Barcelona break the resistance of Bayern Munich in a pulsating 3-0 victory in their Champions League semi-final first leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
After Barca had been frustrated by the brilliance of Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for most of the match, Messi fired home after 77 minutes and then doubled the lead with a delightful chip from six metres three minutes later.
Neymar completed a resounding late burst from the hosts when he raced clear and slotted calmly home in stoppage time.
It was a disappointing evening for Bayern coach Pep Guardiola on his return to his former club. He had warned before the game that it was impossible to stop his former prodigy Messi and it proved the case as the Argentine orchestrated Barcelona’s emphatic victory that gives them a clear advantage heading into next week’s second leg. “When Messi is inspired he is unstoppable and tonight he showed his talent again,” Barcelona centre back Gerard Pique told Spanish television.
“We played a fantastic game. Defensively we were very good as they didn’t have shots on target and to achieve that against a team like Bayern is amazing.”
Barca have evolved this season under Luis Enrique into a team that is no longer obsessed with maintaining possession and instead is allowing the forwards to be more creative.
Bayern had plenty of the ball in the second half but it was Barca’s counter-attacks that proved decisive.
“We played okay for long periods of time but we were caught on the break three times. It’s bitter, we had our chances but we lost possession, they break and that should not happen,” Bayern’s Philipp Lahm told reporters.
Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were among those sidelined in an injury crisis for Bayern, but a masked Robert Lewandowski started in attack despite fracturing his nose and jaw in his side’s recent defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup.
Barcelona’s first clear sight of goal came after 11 minutes when Luis Suarez scampered clear of the Bayern defence and was denied by a superb block from the feet of Neuer.
Minutes later a close range effort from Neymar was deflected wide by Rafinha.
The German champions slowly woke up and should have scored on the counter when Lewandowski slid a Thomas Mueller cross wide after 17 minutes.
Messi and Suarez were both showing delightful touches as they teased the Bayern backline while Neymar on the left side of their attacking trident found it more difficult to get into the game.
Barca continued to pass up opportunities in the second half before Messi made the breakthrough with a 20-metre drive that beat Neuer at his near post.
He then capped an excellent performance by lifting the ball expertly over Neuer for a record 77th Champions League goal and providing the pass for Neymar’s crucial late third.