Barcelona put one foot into the Champions League final on Wednesday as they cruised to a 3-0 home victory over Bayern Munich, thanks in large part to an incredible brace from Lionel Messi. Though there is still the return leg to come at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, Bayern simply did not look capable of playing at Barcelona’s level for the majority of the first leg, and are incredibly unlikely to be able to mount a serious comeback against a Barcelona side that has reestablished itself in the last month or so as the best club side in the world.
Though the first half was closer to even in terms of chances, Barcelona dominated in terms of possession, and were unlucky to find the score level at the break. Despite incredible attacking play from the Catalans throughout the match, they had tremendous difficulty finding a way past world number one goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who made a litany of key saves to keep Barca off the score sheet.
That all changed in three key minutes late in the second half, however, as Messi turned the game on its head with two excellent solo goals. The first, scored in the 77th minute, displayed the diminutive Argentinian’s ability to turn a half chance into something much more, and the second was one of the best goals ever scored in a match of this magnitude (goal at 4:25).
Though Messi absolutely eviscerates one of the best defenders in world football in Jerome Boateng with his feint to the inside, the true quality comes in the finish past Neuer, where the forward shows the composure to delicately lift the ball over the onrushing German with his weak foot from an incredibly tight angle.
By allowing Neymar to break free for a third in stoppage time, Bayern Munich have all but sealed their demise in the Semifinals of the Champions League for a second consecutive season. Manager Pep Guardiola has already stated repeatedly that he has no intention of leaving the Bundesliga champions this summer, but will certainly have plenty of questions to answer in regards to where he sees the future of the squad, as this will mark the second consecutive year in which Bayern have experienced an embarrassing exit to Spanish opposition.
Though Bayern have some serious injury omissions this time around, as the likes of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and David Alaba were all unable to partake in the match, they still had plenty of talent on the field, and should have been able to muster more of a challenge to the La Liga leaders.
Barcelona, on the other hand, look like a side that is once again capable of winning the treble this season. Messi, who has taken a brief hiatus as the world’s best player thanks to some injury concerns and a performance at the World Cup that was well below his standard last season, has now absolutely overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo to once again be considered the sport’s premier talent.
Neymar and Suarez will also surely make the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon D’or this season, as their combined 54 goals this season have taken the Barca attack to new heights. And the Catalans re-pressure when they lose possession is so excellent that they seemingly never have to defend deep in their own half. If this performance was any indication of things to come, there will simply be no stopping Barcelona this season.
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