(Getty Images)

 Spanish La Liga champions Barcelona triumphed in the latest challenge to their Champions league dream. In the semi-final first leg against Liverpool, Lionel Messi put in yet another masterclass.

Barca weathered Liverpool’s early storm, with Joël Matip in particular and Fabinho recovering possession and doing a decent job keeping Messi quiet. Arturo Vidal’s inclusion to add steel to the midfield and cope with Liverpool’s dynamism worked a treat. His presence allowed Barca to not be fazed by Liverpool’s intensity and physicality.

Luis Suarez’s clinical finish.

 It was a rare unlucky night for Liverpool who were reminded of ex-player Suarez’s predatory qualities by a glorious improvised finish; and an elated goal celebration. Messi’s first goal was a simple tap-in after Suarez’s shot came back off the crossbar; his second is already the highlight of this year’s semi-final. A wonderful 30-yard free-kick curled into the top left corner, the kind you score on FIFA and save to show off to your mates later.

 It’s his 26th Champions League goal in 33 appearances against English Clubs.

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That second goal was also his 600th for Barcelona in all competitions on his 683rd appearance; exactly 14 years since his first goal against Albacete. We have run out of Superlatives to describe Leo Messi’s enigmatic performances every three days.

Leo Messi laps up the adulation of the Camp Nou crowd. Image: Getty Images

An unprecedented sixth Ballon d’or is certainly on the way for a man who is dragging Barcelona to a treble.

3-0 is a harsh result for the reds who pressed and probed for long periods. They found spaces but were let down by wayward finishing, and the first two goals came against the run of play. A 4-nil win at Anfield, given the form Messi is in, is nigh-on impossible; Barcelona would score. The merseysiders can only hope for a 5-1 or 6-2 win.

Liverpool are left to rue small margins and misses chances. Image: Getty Images.

In the end, Liverpool should have taken control of the game with vital away goals before and after the Greatest of All Time intervened. It’s the most brutal lesson on fine margins, and Messi happens to be the most brutal marksman in that regard.

If Barcelona do go on to win the Champions League, it’s because they effectively capitalize on small margins. Thanks to Messi


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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