Lionel Messi pictures the Champions League ending with him hoisting the trophy and it began with him scoring a hat – trick on Tuesday as Barcelona put four goals past PSV Eindhoven.
An early kick- off at Camp Nou meant that before most of the tournament ’ s teams had even named their line – ups , Messi was up and running, his sumptuous free – kick from the edge of the area nestling in the top corner , exactly where it was intended .
Messi would have his second and third before the end , but the game was up by then thanks to a superb strike from the excellent Ousmane Dembele .
Only when Barca were three ahead was Samuel Umtiti sent off for a second yellow card , and with 10 men , Messi completed his hat – trick for a 4 – 0 win.
Dembele ’ s goal was worthy of deciding any match but this was Messi ’ s night . After a miserable World Cup trying to retrieve the irretrievable Argentina , Barcelona ’ s now – captain proved his quality again to any doubters that are left .
Four goals already in La Liga , seven overall, neither age nor Cristiano Ronaldo ’ s departure from Spain appear to have taken the edge off .
But even if Messi remains as good as ever , his team will need others to step up . Philippe Coutinho was impressive here and , after a difficult debut campaign , Dembele is finding his rhythm .
The 21 – year – old ’ s driving run earned Messi his free – kick while a sizzling shot brought the goal his bustling display deserved .
Perhaps more importantly , this victory was a clean slate for Barcelona .
It was exactly 23 weeks ago that Roma pulled off one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in this competition and sent the club into a depth of disappointment that , in truth , not even winning the double could alleviate .
Instead , Madrid rubbed salt into the wound by making it look easy and winning their third in a row . “ It is a thorn in our side , ” Luis Suarez said . “ It ’ s time to win the Champions League, ” said Messi .
– Magical Messi –
PSV ’ s coach Mark van Bommel knows what it feels like to walk out at the Camp Nou – he had a successful , albeit short , spell playing for Barca – but few of his players did .
Nick Viergever was one of them , for Ajax in 2014 , but it was his rash challenge on Dembele in the 31 st minute that conceded the free – kick a yard outside the penalty area .
Messi sized it up and sent it spinning away from the hand of Jeroen Zoet and into the top corner .
PSV could have been ahead . Twice they had raced away on the break but Gaston Pereiro blasted over and Steven Bergwijn ’ s curling effort whistled wide of the post .
It was an open game , with Coutinho missing a header and then teeing up Messi to sidefoot high . The Argentinian soon made amends , his eighth free – kick scored in 2018 . He has never scored more in a year .
The contest bristled at the start of the second half . Suarez earned Messi a second free -kick within range but this one floated over . Suarez ’ s delightful chip beat Zoet but not the crossbar .
PSV were still in it and could have equalised when Hirving Lozano ’ s finish was blocked , crucially , by Gerard Pique .
Then three goals arrived in 15 minutes . First Dembele , after leaving two PSV midfielders for dead with a dragback , unleashed into the bottom corner . Messi then latched onto a lob from Ivan Rakitic to slot home before Umtiti was sent off for a cynical block on Lozano .
It made no difference . Suarez set up Messi ’ s third , a brilliant flick allowing his captain the last word , after he had also had the first .
( AFP )
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