Lionel Messi's inability to find the back of the net against Gianluigi Buffon came to an end on Tuesday as the Argentine scored twice in Barcelona's 3-0 thrashing of Juventus in their 2017-18 UEFA Champions League curtain raiser t Camp Nou.
Barcelona and Juventus were both going in goalless at half-time until another moment of Lionel Messi magic changed all that. Messi's lone first half strike was his first ever against Juve goalkeeper as both sides played out a feisty, opening 45 minutes, with plenty of tackles flying in but little in the way of chances. Ivan Rakitic extended Barcelona's lead 11 minutes after the break with Messi adding the Catalan's third in the final 21 minutes.SETTING THE SCENE
Ousmane Dembele who impressed in a cameo during Barca’s 5-0 thrashing of Espanyol over the weekend was rewarded with a starting place on the left wing, partnering Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
The record signing’s inclusion meant it is a full-strength XI named by Ernesto Valverde, with Nelson Semedo staying on at right-back and back on the substitutes bench were Sergi Roberto and Denis Suarez.
Juve, meanwhile, stick
with the 4-3-3 formation they used to beat Chievo on Saturday, with Mattia De Sciglio and Rodrigo Bentancur
given their first starts.
However, the Bianconeri have lost first-team quintet Giorgio Chiellini, Mario Mandzukic, Claudio Marchisio and former Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira to injury.
These two sides met in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals, when Barca lost 3-0 on aggregate, although they did beat Juve 3-1 in the Final two years ago.
The chances were soon flowing for both teams. Miralem Pjanić and Rodrigo Bentancur both came close to dampening the high spirits in the Catalan capital, while at the other end 39-year-old Gianluigi Buffon displayed lightning reflexes to tip Luis Suárez’s strike over the bar.
Although Barca had witnessed football of the most exquisite quality, it looked like they were heading into the break without any score. But despite being uncharacteristically quiet for the first 45 minutes, Messi had other ideas.
The Argentinian had been waiting for his chance to make an impact, and following a deft one-two with Suárez, he was finally into space. Not much space, but Messi doesn’t need a lot to wield his magic. He coolly slotted the ball home and the home fans suddenly had plenty to smile about as they tucked into their half-time refreshments. 1-0.
A goal to the good, Barca started piling on the pressure after the restart. Messi pounded one onto the post, and moments later he went on the rampage down the right. His shot was cleared off the line, but only as far as Ivan Rakitic who converted with composure and that was 2-0.
It was turning into the Messi show, and there was more to come from the greatest player the game has ever seen. On 69 minutes, the No. 10 was on the receiving end of a counter attack and twisted one way and another on the edge of the Juve area before picking his moment to strike. He placed it impeccably. No chance for Buffon. And the Camp Nou crows raised their arms in unison in honour of its footballing deity.
Suárez had a potential fourth of the night ruled out after 79 minutes. If the provider of the assist, Jordi Alba, had been offside then it was by the very narrowest of margins.