Lionel Messi scored two goals in just seven minutes late in the second half to lead Barcelona to a commanding 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
The win gives Barcelona a comfortable advantage heading into the second leg of the tie, which will take place next Tuesday at Anfield.
Suarez Opens Scoring Against Former Team
Barcelona opened the scoring in the 26th minute, when former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez scored after slipping between defenders Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk to slot home a cross from Jordi Alba.
Still, one goal was not enough to make the night a bad one for the Reds, who could look forward to having the advantage of hosting the second leg. In fact, Liverpool looked to be the far more dangerous team in the second half, constantly pressing while Barcelona looked content to defend their one-goal advantage.
But that changed in the 75th minute, which Barca struck on a counterattack against the run of play. Messi made a strong run down the center of the pitch, laying the ball off to Suarez, who nearly scored his second goal of the match. But after his attempt bounced off the crossbar and drew Alisson away from the goal, Messi was able to play the ball off his chest and guide it into the now empty Liverpool net.
If Messi couldn’t take complete credit for his first goal, his genius was undisputed on his second. In the 82nd minute, Messi curled in an incredible free kick from 35 yards out, placing it perfectly in the top left corner and just out of the reach of Alisson to make the score 3-0. The goal also marked Messi’s 600th career score for Barcelona.
Quality Doesn’t Translate to Goals for Liverpool
Even with the result on the night no longer in question, Liverpool still had plenty to play for, as an away goal would have greatly increased their chances of a second-leg comeback. The English side had an excellent chance in the 84th minute, when a Sadio Mane shot was cleared off the line by a Barcelona defender, only to go right to the feet of Mo Salah. With much of the net open to him, his shot went straight off the outside of the post, leaving Liverpool scoreless on the night.
After the game, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters that while his team may have played better than the scoreboard indicated, there was no disputing the result.
“Football is like this. It’s about scoring goals and they scored three goals and we scored none,” Klopp said. “I’m really happy with the performance but I’m not happy with the result. You don’t get grades in this game, you only get a hard result.”
The result leaves Liverpool with a mountain to climb next week, and while the home side will still be favored to win that match, the margin of victory needed makes it highly likely that Barcelona will be going through to the Champions League final to face either Ajax or Tottenham Hotspur. Following the match, Betfred immediately posted Barcelona as a massive 1/33 favorite to qualify for the final, with Liverpool listed at 12/1 to make what would be an improbable comeback next week.