Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick
including his 200th goal for Barcelona in a resounding 4-0
victory at 10-man Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday that put the rampant
Champions League holders and their Group H rivals AC Milan
through to the last 16.
The World Player of the Year converted a penalty in the 24th
minute to claim a double century of goals for Barca after being
felled by defender Marian Cisovsky who got a straight red card.
Messi fired home a second from close range in first-half
stoppage-time and, after Cesc Fabregas got on the scoresheet
late on, the Argentine scored his hat-trick, and Barca's fourth
goal, in added-time at the end of a game they dominated.
"I am happy but more than anything for the result," Messi
said in a pitchside interview with Spanish television, adding
that he was not thinking about catching the Catalan club's
record marksman Cesar Rodriguez, who scored 235.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola added: "Messi is a phenomenal
player, what more can I say."
Czech league champions Plzen started brightly and could have
taken an early lead after Milan Petrzela's shot was turned away
by Barca keeper Victor Valdes.
The tide turned after the penalty and Plzen spent the rest
of a chilly night struggling for possession.
Plzen coach Pavel Vrba rued his team's failure to score when
given the chance and the red card which left them facing a
mammoth task for the rest of the night.
"Two incidents decided the game," he said. "Milan Petrzela
had the clear chance but failed to score and then the penalty
and the red card came."
"We wasted the chance before the first goal but we are not
used to the high pressure in our domestic league like
Messi opened the scoring from the spot before grabbing his
second after a nifty one-two with Adriano on the edge of the box
and scored his hat-trick after rounding the keeper and slotting
into an empty net for his 202nd goal for the Catalan side.
Thiago Alcantara nodded against the bar from Messi's cross
midway through the second half before Fabregas headed in the
third after 72 minutes from a cross by striker Issac Cuenca, who
was making his first appearance in the competition.
Milan's 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov earlier on Tuesday means
Barca are assured of at least second place in Group H with two
games left. Milan are also through to the knockout rounds
because they have a better head-to-head record over BATE.
Barcelona are top on 10 points from four matches, with Milan
second on eight points. BATE have two and Plzen one.
Keeper Valdes set a Barca record for minutes unbeaten late
in the first half when he reached 825 without conceding a goal.
That bettered a mark held by Miguel Reina, father of
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe, since the 1972/73 season.
Berlin will stage Champions League final for the first time in 2015
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze ruled out of Champions League final against Bayern Munich
Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand signs one-year contract
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will leave the La Liga club at the end of the current season
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010