Messi fires Barcelona into Champions League quarter-finals

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Lionel Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League tie as Barcelona routed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 to reach the quarter-finals with a crushing 10-2 aggregate win on Wednesday.

Messi bettered his previous record of four against Arsenal two seasons ago and now has 12 goals from seven Champions League matches after a majestic attacking performance from the World Player of the Year.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg it was always going to be a tough task for Bayer with Barca unbeaten in 13 European home games and they never appeared likely to end that run. Messi struck twice before the break and then hit a further three after the restart while youngster Christian Tello also grabbed a brace.

In the final minute Karim Bellarabi scored for a shell-shocked German side.

“You can expect anything from Leo,” said teammate Cesc Fabregas. “He is the best player in history, we have never seen anyone like him.

“He didn’t play at the weekend (Messi was suspended) and he wanted to do well. He enjoys being on the pitch and we are happy to have him.”

Barcelona were without Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal in defence and Alexis Sanchez was also in the treatment room after pulling up with a strain in the weekend 3-1 victory over Sporting Gijon.

Bayer coach Robin Dutt said beforehand that his team would go out to enjoy themselves without any pressure on their shoulders.

But once the game was underway there was little chance for the Germans to savour the moment of playing at the Camp Nou as they were immediately pegged back.

Barca had an incredible 72 percent possession playing away in the first leg and quickly took control of the ball.

They went close to taking the lead after ten minutes when Messi scampered onto a delightful lob by Fabregas but his shot from a tight angle was saved by goalkeeper Bernd Leno and then a follow-up drive from Pedro Rodriguez was blocked by a defender.

Andres Iniesta has been in good form and forced several fouls on the edge of the Bayer area, one leading to a yellow card for Simon Rolfes and another to a free-kick which Leno had to block from Xavi Hernandez.

Bayer were caught out from one of their rare forays forward with Barca winning possession back and then a Xavi ball, from inside his own half, set up Messi to score the opener after 25 minutes.

The Argentine beat the offside trap and lobbed the helpless keeper.

There was no let up in the Barca onslaught and an apparently miss-hit pass from Adriano again found Messi but his shot from the edge of the area was blocked.

Three minutes before the break and Barca did get their second as Messi feinted one way and then the other before slotting the ball into the corner from 18 yards.

Messi claimed his hat-trick soon after the re-start from another lob with the German defence failing to track his run.

Fabregas knocked the ball over the top and Messi chipped the keeper with his supposedly weaker right foot.

With important games ahead, Barca coach Pep Guardiola chose to take off Iniesta and Xavi after 52 minutes with Tello and Seydou Keita coming on.

But there was no let up in Barca’s thrust and the night went from bad to worse for an already dejected Bayer who had only fleeting glimpses of the ball.

They created their first chance nine minutes into the second half when Eren Derdiyok saw a shot from the tightest of angles go wide but then immediately the ball went to the other end of the pitch and Tello added Barca’s fourth.

He latched onto a Fabregas pass and then showed composure belying his 20 years to calmly slot the ball past the keeper.

Bayer had lost their composure at the back and then Leno, who was having a night to forget between the posts, gifted the ball to Messi who slipped the ball in from a tight angle for his fourth.

The keeper was again at fault as he allowed a weak Tello shot to squirm underneath him after 61 minutes and could do nothing to stop Messi’s fifth with six minutes to go as he again finished clinically.

In the 90th minute Bellarabi did manage to register a goal for Bayer, curling the ball into the corner.

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