Magical Messi makes the difference for Barcelona as Chelsea are shown up
- Leo Messi single-handedly decided the knockout tie as Barcelona eliminated Chelsea; the Argentine wizard made all the difference.
The last time Chelsea played at the Nou Camp prior to this season, they dumped Barça out of the Champions League in a semi-final game that sent shock waves across Europe. Led by Roberto Di Matteo, the Blues surprised the continent to win the 2012 tournament, coming from 2 goals down to pull level to despite having influential captain, John Terry, sent off.
Lionel Messi was ineffective on the night, striking a penalty against the crossbar and continuing his barren run against the Blues as the Blaugrana sank right in front of their fans.
Alexis Sanchez later revealed that the diminutive Argentine cried in the dressing room after the match, no doubt unhappy at his inability to help his team through, rare circumstances for a player of his magnificent ability.
When the pairings were done for the round of 16, memories of that night at the Nou Camp must have come back and when the time came to put his Chelsea woes to bed, the Argentine genius did it with aplomb, his influence in both legs was otherworldly, effectively dumping the Blues out single-handedly.
Stories had been written beforehand as diehard Blues made a meal of his seeming inability to score against Chelsea but by the end of the tie, the scoreline read 4-1 on aggregate in favour of the Catalan giants.
It could well have been written in favour of Messi, such was his influence on the tie, scoring three and giving a masterful assist for the other. The second leg was the game where he really displayed what it meant to be at the very top of the footballing food chain as his wizardry was on show with every touch of the ball.
The assist for Ousmane Dembele was something only the true greats are capable of pulling off; he robbed Fabregas in midfield before gliding past the Spaniard as well as the outstretched boot of Andreas Christensen.
With Luis Suarez running ahead of Leo, the pass that everyone in the stadium expected to be played was the one into Luis’ feet but Leo doesn't play by the average rules, he did the extraordinary, sweeping a pass right into an unmarked Dembele's feet, who in turn controlled the ball before slamming home a rocket.
He was the brains behind the whole thing, gently pushing the Barça wheels towards the quarterfinals.
To their credit, most of the Chelsea players gave it their all, playing to their absolute limits, Willian in particular was one, his direct running troubling the more sedate Catalans in both legs.
Kantè tried his best to hold the fort but as the others crumbled around him, his influence withered, the relative inexperience of the Chelsea squad was brought to bear as well, schoolboy mistakes all around
The difference between European heavyweights and also-rans was never so clear as those errors were punished clinically.
Eden Hazard could only watch as the other #10 on the pitch ran amok, he could only play as much as his feet could, there was never going to be any stopping Barcelona when Leo was in that kind of form.
With the resounding win and the form their starman is in, the Catalans can look forward to the draws with relish as they know that where Leo is, pure magic follows.Published 15 Mar 2018, 23:32 IST