Lionel Messi became the first player in Champions League history to score 5 goals in one match. Forget about Barcelona beating Leverkusen 7-1 and the aggregate score of 10-2. The best way to put his incredible achievement is this – In one night, Messi leaped over Inzaghi and Schevchenko in the all time scoring rankings, reaching 49 Champions League goals.
It was one of those matches that gathered Barcelona so many fans in recent years. More than the titles, it was the style, and the elegant brutality of their finishing. Barcelona don’t look like an aggressive team, but they are, in their own way. With tiny killers, little assassins, and no mercy. Leverkusen came hoping not get demolished, buoyed by their 2-0 win over Bayern on Saturday. So they hoped.
Christian Tello didn’t even touch the ball 5 times during the match, or at least not that I noticed. He finished with two goals, drowned by Messi and his perfect concerto. And he had a few more chances stopped by the keeper or some brave defender.
This is Real Madrid’s year in the league, there’s no doubt, but Barcelona are on full throttle in Champions League matches. Maybe it’s the rather dormant atmosphere or the sheer size of the Camp Nou, but the intensity in which they play slips from our eyes at times. You don’t feel like it’s a never ending blitz by Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta and Busquets, constantly pushing forward.
There’s no reason to talk about tactics, with Leverkusen not even a factor throughout the 90 minutes. Karim Bellarabi scored a fantastic goal at the 90th minute to put his name on stat sheet. No one will remember. It was all about Messi, and perfect, clinical finishing from the best player in the world right now. The Spanish league is too easy, but the Champions League, at these stages at least, seems too easy as well.
Is this a real test? No, just a show of strength against an opponent who just wanted the 90 minutes to be over from the first second they stepped on the pitch. Nothing in the way Leverkusen played gave us an idea of them actually beliving they can turn the tide, or anything even resembling fair and tough opposition.
19-Year old Bernd Leno didn’t even have a bad day, but how can a day be good when you pull out 7 balls from your net? After two yellow cards Bayer’s men stopped even thinking about aggressive. They just left Messi and the gang alone, kept playing with a rather naive high line of defense, and suffered dearly for it with a humiliating performance and result.
Will Barcelona win the Champions League this season? They have to be the favorites, despite Real’s league form. They’ve got the edge when it comes to playing against Los Blancos, and there’s no other team right now, across Europe that can touch them. I don’t know what Guardiola is planning for next year and his future in the game, but it seemed like Messi and the rest put on a show just to convince him to stay.