Magical Messi chases away Blues

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Mar 2018 11:05:20


 

BARCELONA, 

BARCELONA hailed Lionel Messi as “The King” as he handed Chelsea the royal punishment by scoring twice to reach 100 Champions League goals and end their quarter-final hopes.After unfurling a banner showing the words “God Save The King” before kick-off, Barca’s fans were celebrating after just 129 seconds at the Camp Nou as Messi found the net before Chelsea had even made a pass.
He then teed up Ousmane Dembele to double Barca’s lead in the second leg of the last-16 clash before registering a century of Champions League goals on his 123rd appearance to complete a 3-0 victory, 4-1 on aggregate.
Messi becomes only the second player to reach the milestone in Europe’s premier tournament, following Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 117 goals in 152 games.

“He knows in certain moments the stars have to come out,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We enjoy him. We’re lucky enough to be seeing something that will go down in history.”
By the end, the Argentinian’s scintillating breakaway in the build-up to Dembele’s first Barcelona goal had become little more than a footnote to what was another Messi masterclass.“I think that a fantastic player moved the final result,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. “In these two legs, he scored three goals, he made an assist for Dembele to score a goal. It’s a pity.” It also caps a remarkable five days for the 30-year-old, who sat out Saturday’s La Liga win over Malaga to attend to the birth of his third child.

Chelsea, in touch after the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, were therefore unfortunate enough to encounter the striker fresh, free and at his frighteningly brilliant best.
At the finish, Conte left the field with his arm around the forward, perhaps with nothing to add but congratulations.
“I think when you have the opportunity to make great compliment to Messi, I think it’s right,” Conte added. “It’s right to recognise a super, super, super top player.”
Conte’s team had chances, particularly in the first half, but the sense was once Barcelona were in front they were content to sit back and counter.FASTEST MESSI GOAL
Chelsea hit the woodwork twice and claimed for a penalty when Alonso was brought down by Gerard Pique.
“If you watch the game you can see the final result is unfair,” Conte said. “Over the two legs we hit the post four times. This is very strange.”


With Manchester United dumped out by Sevilla and Tottenham outmanoeuvred by Juventus, Chelsea’s exit means for all the talk of a Premier League resurgence, Liverpool and Manchester City are its only two representatives in the quarter-finals.Spain have three, after Real saw off the challenge of Paris Saint-Germain.
Andres Iniesta shook off a hamstring strain to start while Dembele was a surprise inclusion, preferred to Paulinho and rewarded for his excellent display against Malaga.
Conte, meanwhile, plumped for Olivier Giroud up front ahead of both Alvaro Morata, who was on the bench, and Eden Hazard, who was granted his wish to play deeper in attacking midfield.


Within three minutes, however, Chelse’s plan to frustrate was spoiled. Messi started the move and finished it, with Dembele, Luis Suarez and a deflection off Alonso, helping him find the space to fire through the legs of Thibaut Courtois for the fastest goal of his career.
Dembele’s second came after Cesc Fabregas failed to secure possession in midfield and Messi was away, skipping past a desperate lunge from Andreas Christensen, before taking the whole stadium by surprise by squaring to the back post. Dembele took one touch and slammed the ball into the top corner.Any hopes Chelsea had of a comeback were extinguishe shortly after the hour-mark. Suarez raced through midfield but looked to have hit a wall on the edge of Chelsea’s box.


Messi took over, tearing past the rooted Moses and banging the ball, again through the legs of Courtois, into the net.Leo will never leave Barca: ConteANTONIO Conte said he believed Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona for the rest of his playing days after watching the Argentine maestro destroy Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.
Messi has frequently been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League but Conte is convinced the striker will retire at Barcelona.“I think Leo wants to stay until the end of his career with Barcelona,” Conte said.“We’re talking about an impossible situation. I repeat: we must have great respect for this player. We are talking about a fantastic player.“I think he wants to stay in Barcelona for the end of his career. I think it’s the right way for him. He’s writing with his team-mates a great story with Barcelona.”After full-time, Conte left the field with a congratulatory arm around Messi’s shoulder but Chelsea had chances too, most notably through Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger, who both hit the woodwork.Alonso also thought he should have been awarded a penalty in the second half after he went down under the challenge of Gerard Pique.Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud believes his team deserved more.“Obviously on both matches I regret the posts or bars that we could have. You have to have some success, a little luck,” Giroud said.Iniesta weighing offer from ChinaBARCELONA captain Andres Iniesta revealed he has an offer to move to China and will make a decision on his future before the end of April.


The 33-year-old came through the youth system at Barca, has made over 400 appearances for the club and signed a “lifetime contract” with the club in October.
But after a win over Chelsea secured the team’s place in the Champions League quarter-finals, Iniesta admitted his future may lie elsewhere.“Before April 30 I have to make the decision whether I’m still in Barcelona or I’m going to China. I have to assess what is best for me and for the club,” he said.“It is a decision that I will communicate to the club first and then you will find out. I will make a decision before April 30.”


“It will be the most honest for me and for the club.”
Iniesta has been linked with Tianjin Quanjian, although the Chinese Super League club declared the rumours “false” this week and threatened legal action to stamp them out.
Busquets out with toe injuryBARCELONA midfielder Sergio Busquets will be out for around three weeks with a fractured toe and faces a race to be fit for next month’s Champions League quarter-finals.Busquets hobbled off in the 61st minute of Barca’s 3-0 win over Chelsea.The Catalans will discover on Friday their last eightopponent, with the first leg scheduled for April 3 or 4, leaving Busquets a maximum of 21 days to recover. Busquets’ injury comes at a bad time too for Spain, with coach Julen Lopetegui due to announce on Friday his squad for friendlies against Germany on March 23 and Argentina on March 27.


A Barcelona statement on Thursday read: “The tests performed have confirmed that the player of the first team Sergio Busquets has a fracture in the phalanx of the fifth right toe with a wound. His approximate absence is three weeks.”