Messi's Genius Gives Barca The Result Their Football Deserved


Don't be wishing this tie was the final. Just don't. Such was the invigorating fair served by Barcelona and Bayern Munich on Wednesday night we can only be grateful we get another serving at the Allianz Arena next week.

Barcelona were mostly magnificent. The bewildering runs of Lionel Messi left vapor trails all over the slick Camp Nou turf, and the players around him put on a clinic in purposeful pass-and-move football - always looking forward, always seeking to unleash one of their multitude of threats deep into Bayern territory.

It was as if the most magical spells of Pep Guardiola had been turned back upon him. Only this version of Barcelona are a leaner, altogether more direct and box office version than the conquering pass masters Guardiola put on top of the world. The argument of which team is better is yet to form, but there can be no doubting which team is easier to fall in love with.

FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BAYERN : News Photo

So much has changed at Barca since Guardiola walked away, but the genius of Messi lives on. The genius of Messi has never shone brighter than it did in winning this game with a pair of fine goals that eventually saw Manuel Neuer beaten in the second half.

With an instinctive drive from his left boot and a deft flick of his right, Messi swung the tie from Bayern's favour to Barca's and reminded the world how fortunate we are to be experiencing his career in our lifetimes. Four minutes was all it took - four minutes of technical perfection in the tightest of spaces.

He wasn't done yet. As the game ticked into the last minute of added time, and with Bayern fans still clinging to the possibility of a rousing turnaround next week, Messi slipped in Neymar and the Brazilian stuttered before dispatching a shot under Neuer to surely win the tie.

It's hard to argue that Messi's two magisterial moments (copyright Ray Hudson) and Neymar's late goal gave Barca the reward their approach deserved. Luis Suarez and Dani Alves were among the Barca players denied all too predictably by Neuer, who was still arguably Bayern's best player and yet again demonstrated his standing as the best goalkeeper of his generation. 

To say that and know Neuer was beaten three times speaks to Barca's approach and Bayern's inability to formulate a response. Injuries played their part, of course they did, but history will remember only Barcelona's dominance.

Luis Enrique's Barca team set upon their opponents with rare ferocity from the start. Rarely has pressing been so pressing; rarely in the modern game have we seen a team take an open blade into battle with such outward aggression, at such a tense and defining moment in the season.

FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BAYERN : News Photo

Barca were pouring all over Bayern in a blur of purple and looked capable of going two or three ahead in a flash of Blaugrana brilliance, but it didn't happen. Guardiola switched from his man-to-man marking approach and Bayern steadied the ship - even threatening a goal of their own when Robert Lewandowski missed the kind of chance he usually snaffles for fun.

As the game found its rhythm, Bayern became less vulnerable, or so we thought until Messi pounced in the 77th and 80th minutes to give Barcelona the goals their approach so richly deserved. 

By adding an assist late on, Messi would surely book another appearance in a Champions League final and leave his former coach wondering if there was ever an answer to what was coming.