Messi magic humiliates Manchester United
Lionel Messi pounced on two Manchester United mistakes to score twice and end their hopesof another Camp Nou comeback as Barcelona breezed into the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday.
After an excellent start, United were undone twice in four minutes by Messi, who first nicked the ball off the careless AshleyYoung and then watched as a weak shot from distance squirmed underneath David de Gea.
Philippe Coutinho, in perhaps his best performance of the season, added a third with a curling effort into the top cornerand by the end, an outclassed United might have been relieved the score was not more traumatic than 3-0, 4-0 on aggregate.
A dizzying opening spell, in which Marcus Rashford had hit the crossbar, was long-forgotten, even if it could offer Barcelona'snext opponents some encouragement.
Liverpool, who take a 2-0 lead to Porto on Wednesday, are the most likely obstacle between Barca and their first ChampionsLeague final since they last won this tournament in 2015. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane might feel encouraged.
Instead, United's pair of early errors made this another night about Messi and ensured any faint hopes of repeating the comebackagainst Paris Saint-Germain, or even the famous 1999 rescue act against Bayern Munich, on this same pitch, were dashed.
Messi now has his 109th and 110th Champions League goals and, potentially, three extra matches to reduce the gap on CristianoRonaldo's 126, after Juventus were dumped out by Ajax. Barcelona's fans celebrated that too.
United's coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had urged his strikers to be more lethal here but it felt ominous that even before kick-off,Rashford, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez had hit 42 goals this season, while Messi on his own had 43.
Around an hour before kick-off, Alex Ferguson was on the side of the pitch, shaking hands with Ryan Giggs and sharing wordswith Solskjaer, the scorer of that goal against Munich here 20 years ago.
They could have hardly have asked for a better start. United were brilliant for eight minutes and could have been ahead within30 seconds as Rashford raced onto a curving Paul Pogba pass and toed away a shot, which Marc-Andre ter Stegen bravely leftto graze his own crossbar.
- Magic Messi - Barca were flustered, so much so the crowd even cheered with relief when Arthur Melo played his team's firstconvincing pass.
Then, Barcelona had their own eight-minute flurry as United almost conceded a penalty, ruled out after Fred took the ballbefore bringing down Ivan Rakitic, and then did concede, twice, to Messi.
Both could have been avoided, even if Young's turn on the edge of his own box was punished in devastating fashion. Young lungedin to atone for his mistake but Messi skipped away from him, poked it through Fred's legs and then whipped the ball past intothe corner.
The second was simpler. Fred and Scott McTominay closed in on Coutinho and the ball spilled out to Messi, whose dribblingshot with his right foot should have drawn a routine save. Instead, De Gea let is squirm under his body for 2-0.
Pogba lashed out at the increasingly influential Arthur and Barca could have had a third before half-time, De Gea scramblingacross to save on the line when Sergi Roberto should have finished.
Messi could have had his hat-trick too after Luis Suarez found him with a superb cutback and there was an almost comical sequencein the second half when the Argentinian played with his United chasers before finally being bundled over by McTominay.
Rashford might have made it interesting if he had controlled Pogba's ball over the top but Barcelona were in exhibition mode,helped by a vintage Coutinho curler after he had cut inside from the left.
In the other Champions League match Ajax produced a spellbinding display of inventive, passing football to beat Juventus 2-1 and end the Serie A team's dreams of winning the Champions League.
The Dutch side's 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt headed the winner from the corner in the 67th minute of the quarter-final second leg as the Dutch side came from behind to clinch a 3-2 aggregate win and reach the last four for the first time since 1996/97.
Ronaldo, aiming for a fourth successive Champions League title after winning the last three with Real Madrid, put Juventus ahead in the 28th minute with a typically emphatic header, his sixth goal of the competition. But Donny van de Beek levelled six minutes later before the visitors swept Juventus aside in the second half with wave after wave of fluid attacks to follow up their elimination of Real Madrid in the previous round.