Monday 26 February 2018

Messi hits Brace as Barca thrash Juve

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Photo: Susana Vera
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Photo: Susana Vera

Jamie Holland

A mesmeric Lionel Messi struck twice and inspired Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Juventus as the Catalans got off to a flying start in Group D of the Champions League, avenging last season's quarter-final elimination by the Italian champions.

Messi broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time by playing a slick one-two off Luis Suarez and arrowing the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon, finally getting the better of the veteran Italian in his fourth game against him.

The Argentinian was also the catalyst for the second goal, forcing Juve to scramble the ball off the line and allowing Ivan Rakitic to shoot into an empty net in the 56th minute.

Messi was far from done. For his second, and Barca's third, he received a pass from Andres Iniesta and ripped more holes in a depleted Juventus defence before lashing his shot beyond a dejected Buffon - his seventh goal in three games.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid kick off their bid to complete a hat-trick of successes in the Champions League against Apoel Nicosia in the Bernabeu tonight.

Real spent 12 lean years labouring to their tenth Champions League win, long dubbed La Decima and so craved by supporters.

But with that monkey long since off their backs, Real expect to keep racking up the titles and the Spanish press have already branded this season's assault on the trophy as La Decimotercera, the 13th.

Real have struggled in front of goal in grinding out two draws in three matches of a below-par opening to the new La Liga season.

To add to those concerns, Karim Benzema suffered a hamstring injury in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Levante.

However, they will be boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose five-match ban for pushing the referee after being sent off in Real's Spanish Super Cup clash with Barcelona does not extend to the Champions League.

Irish Independent

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