For the primary jiffy of Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg between Barcelona and Manchester United, it appeared just like the Purple Devils would possibly simply have the ability to recapture the magic that allowed them to overcome a two-goal loss at residence final month and upset Paris Saint-Germain within the spherical of 16.
Lionel Messi had different concepts. The world’s finest participant put an finish to United’s unlikely Champions League desires by scoring twice in a 4 minute span within the first half, sending Barca to a complete 3-0 victory (4-0 on mixture) and the ultimate 4 of Europe’s high membership competitors for the primary time since they final hoisted the trophy in 2015.
Listed here are three fast ideas on the match:
Manchester United squandered no matter probability it had …
Trailing 1-0 on whole targets after dropping at Outdated Trafford in final week’s opener, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s workforce was all the time going to return out on the entrance foot. Few may’ve predicted how dominant they’d be within the opening minutes of the competition, nonetheless.
United had a golden alternative to drag degree on whole targets simply 30 seconds into the sport after Marcus Rashford — who scored the late sequence winner in opposition to PSG from the penalty spot — acquired behind the hosts’ again line.
However with Rashford being closed down by Barca heart again Clement Lenglet he was pressured to hurry his shot, sending a right-footed toe poke over keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and harmlessly off the highest of the crossbar.
The guests continued to high-press relentlessly; clearly the sport plan was to steal an early purpose. It nearly labored, too, with Barcelona’s all-world again line struggling to play by way of the stress.
No purpose got here, although. What’s extra, the technique left Solskjaer and Co. vulnerable to the counter assault. Positive sufficient, because the minutes ticked by Barca started to exert stress of their very own. With United abruptly on its heels, Fred was whistled for tripping Ivan Rakitic contained in the field. But United was spared the shot kick after it was decided that the Brazilian gained the ball earlier than taking down Rakitic.
If the controversial name felt like an omen, that feeling didn’t final lengthy.
… However Messi was all the time going to have a monster match
By his otherworldly requirements, Messi was uncharacteristically quiet through the first leg. Heading into this one, he was due.
It took simply 16 minutes for Messi to ruthlessly punish an Ashley Younger turnover and all however seal the end result then and there. The purpose was a gem; first the little Argentine nutmegged Fred earlier than firing one in all his patented left-footed drives simply inside David de Gea’s submit, doubling Barca’s total benefit:
Moments later, Messi pounced on one other giveaway deep in United territory, pulled off one other nutmeg, and fired a shot that De Gea in some way let slip proper by way of him:
At that time, it was only a matter of time till Barca added one other.
Barca is now the clear favourite to win all of it
In fact, Ernesto Valverde’s squad was already the bookies’ decide to hoist the trophy for the fifth time of the Messi period even earlier than Tuesday’s match kicked off. However with fellow European juggernauts comparable to Bayern Munich and Spanish rival Actual Madrid (winner of the final three Champions League titles) already eradicated, and with Juve (and Cristiano Ronaldo) surprised at residence by comparatively humble Ajax on Tuesday, this yr’s occasion completely is Barcelona’s to lose.
The hosts fairly clearly stepped off the fuel within the second half in opposition to Manchester United on the Camp Nou. But they nonetheless managed so as to add that third purpose on a spectacular particular person effort by Philippe Coutinho:
United was a crushed workforce at that time, certain, and on their technique to a fifth loss of their final seven outings. Their defending on Barca’s exclamation level left lots to be desired.
However Coutinho’s strike nonetheless served as an vital reminder of the standard, expertise and power in depth that Valverde’s aspect boasts. It’s merely unmatched by any workforce nonetheless left within the match.
Wherever the oddsmakers find yourself setting the road as soon as the semifinal matchups are decided, know this: Solely a idiot would wager in opposition to Barcelona capturing their first Champions League crown in 4 years now.