Lionel Messi’s pre-tournament quest to win the UEFA Champions League again this season began on a promising note last night after leading host, FC Barcelona to 4-0 win against PSV Eindhoven with the captain having three of the goals to his credit.
The win pushed the former European champions into momentary lead of the ‘Group of Death’ following Inter Milan’s late 2-1 comeback win over Tottenham Hotspurs at the San Siro Stadium.
It was an early kick-off in both group matches that saw Messi scoring from trade mark free kick long before other teams on match day-one could even name their squad for their games.
Messi would have his second and third before the end, but the game was up by then thanks to a superb strike from the excellent Ousmane Dembele.
Only when Barca were three ahead was Samuel Umtiti sent off for a second yellow card, and with 10 men, Messi completed his hat-trick for a 4-0 win.
Dembele’s goal was worthy of deciding any match but this was Messi’s night. After a miserable World Cup trying to retrieve the irretrievable Argentina, Barcelona’s now-captain proved his quality again to any doubters that are left.
Four goals already in La Liga, seven overall, neither age nor Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Spain appear to have taken the edge off him.
But even if Messi remains as good as ever, his team will need others to step up. Philippe Coutinho was impressive here and, after a difficult debut campaign, Dembele is finding his rhythm.
The 21-year-old’s driving run earned Messi his free-kick while a sizzling shot brought the goal his bustling display deserved.
Perhaps more importantly, this victory was a clean slate for Barcelona.
It was exactly 23 weeks ago that Roma pulled off one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in this competition and sent the club into a depth of disappointment that, in truth, not even winning the double could alleviate.
Instead, Madrid rubbed salt into the wound by making it look easy and winning their third in a row. “It is a thorn in our side,” Luis Suarez said. “It’s time to win the Champions League,” said Messi.
In the other group match, Tottenham’s campaign started with defeat as goals from Matias Vecino and a Mauro Icardi stunner gave Inter a 2-1 win.
Spurs had taken a second half lead through a deflected Christian Eriksen strike, but on their return to European football’s top competition after six years away, the Italian side took all three points at the death.
After a goalless first half, Spurs took the lead eight minutes into the second half through Eriksen, who sent a deflected effort over Handanovic after his first effort from the edge of the box was pushed away by the goalkeeper.
The English Premiership side had two good attempts to double the lead but wasted the opportunities to give the home team some respites deep into the second half when Mauro Icardi scored Inter Milan’s first Champions League goal in 2,381 days since their last match against Marseille by Diego Milito in March, 2012!
Uruguayan midfielder, Vecino scored the winner late in the added time and send Spurs to a third consecutive defeat after two defeats in the domestic league.
Brugge 0-1 Dortmund
Monaco 1-2 Atletico
Barcelona 4-0 PSV
Inter 2-1 Spurs
Zvezda 0-0 Napoli
Liverpool 3-2 PSG
Galatasaray 3-0 Lokomotiv
Schalke 1-1 Porto
Shaktar v Hoffenheim (5:55pm)
Ajax v AEK Athens (5:55pm)
R’Madrid v Roma (8:00pm)
Young Boys v Man Utd (8:00pm)
Man City v Lyon (8:00pm)
Benfica v B’ Munich (8:00pm)
Vicktoria Plzen v CSKA (8:00pm)
Valencia v Juventus (8:00pm)