Fifteen minutes of brilliance from Lionel Messi, which include two fantastic goals and a brilliant assist to Neymar, pretty much put Barcelona in the final of the Champions League following a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the semifinal clash.
For 75 minutes this was Manuel Neuer’s day, making three incredible saves in one on one situations off of Neymar and Luis Suarez. It actually seemed like Bayern’s plan of slowing the match down and trying to get away with all of their injuries and absentees would work. But Neuer is only human, while Messi is probably a cut above.
This year’s Barcelona seem to be a blend of the old tiki-taka with something more direct, more efficient. It helped to face a team that plays in a similar way, only with inferior players. The midfield consisting of Xabi Alonso, Thiago and Philipp Lahm had no chance of competing and stopping the trio Barcelona put in front of them, with Ivan Rakitic doing an amazing bit of work, looking like he’s about everywhere at once.
The 77th minute was when this match, destined for a 0-0 draw, changed for good. A terrible mistake by Juan Bernat on the left wing, losing the ball to Dani Alves near the penalty box, was the mistake Barcelona were waiting for. Lionel Messi got the pass just outside the box and found the space to beat Neuer, who was perfect up to that point.
Three minutes later, Ivan Rakitic managed to pull three defenders one way while sending a pass that left Messi with just Jerome Boateng to beat. Boateng dropped like a sack as Messi feigned him (the memes are coming, don’t worry) before chipping it over Neuer for one of those goals which makes the entire Camp Nou bow to him and chant his name.
The finish? A counter attack as Bayern were desperately looking for an away goal. Luis Suarez got clipped, but the match went on. Neymar broke from the left to center and Messi put in the perfect through ball to leave him onside and in a one on one situation with Neuer. Finally, Neymar didn’t hit the large frame of the German international, and with that probably sealed the fate of this encounter, making the second leg almost redundant. Almost.