March 14, 2018 / 10:01 PM / 7 days ago

Messi majestic as Barcelona crush Chelsea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored two brilliant goals and created another for Ousmane Dembele as Barcelona thrashed Chelsea 3-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-1 on aggregate.

Soccer Football - Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg - FC Barcelona vs Chelsea - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - March 14, 2018 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger and N'Golo Kante REUTERS/Albert Gea

Messi opened the scoring after two minutes and eight seconds, the quickest goal of his career, slipping the ball through Thibaut Courtois’ legs from a tight angle.

The Argentine forward created the second with a blistering run from the halfway line which left three Chelsea defenders stumbling in his wake, before squaring the ball for Ousmane Dembele to rifle home his first goal for the club.

Marcos Alonso hit the post and Olivier Giroud was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty for a tangle with Gerard Pique as Chelsea tried to launch a comeback, before Messi killed the tie with his 100th Champions League goal.

“To have Messi in the team is a luxury, he’s such a good player that in any move he can create danger against you,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

“Our attacking play goes through him and any move is improved by his touch.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said his side needed a perfect display to progress but they started disastrously at a packed Nou Camp when Luis Suarez teed up Messi, who squeezed a low strike through the legs of Courtois from a tight angle.

The visitors responded well with Giroud and Willian, who scored in the 1-1 first-leg draw at Stamford Bridge, particularly bright in attack.

Soccer Football - Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg - FC Barcelona vs Chelsea - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - March 14, 2018 Barcelona’s Jordi Alba in action with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta REUTERS/Susana Vera

But a mistake from Cesc Fabregas on the halfway line allowed Messi to break in again after 20 minutes and the number 10 left the Chelsea backline in tatters to set up the second goal, expertly finished by Dembele.

The English side, now needing two goals, nearly got one before halftime. N’Golo Kante dragged a shot inches wide and Marcos Alonso crashed a free kick off the post.

Slideshow (13 Images)

It was the third time across the two legs that Chelsea hit the woodwork and Antonio Rudiger did it again in the closing stages.

Giroud appeared to be brought down by Pique in the area but referee Damir Skomina did not bow to Chelsea’s protests for a penalty, before Messi drove at the defence again and slotted home Barcelona’s third in the 62nd minute, shooting low between Courtois’ legs for the second time.

“(For) the first goal, I did not expect Messi to shoot from that angle and I was too late in closing my legs, it was a mistake on my part,” Courtois told BT Sport.

“I played against Messi a lot of times, I have already conceded goals like that before. The weakest point is between the legs or a goalkeeper, it is annoying.

“I cannot hide inside, I have to be a man and come out. I made some good saves too but we go out with conceding four goals from four mistakes.”

Barcelona reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the 11th consecutive season while Chelsea were left facing a battle to qualify for the competition again as they scrap for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Reporting by Rik Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond

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