A sturdy Liverpool performance could do nothing to prevent an excellent Lionel Messi, the Argentinian scored twice to put Barcelona firmly in control of the Champions League Semi-Final tie, with the reds losing 3-0 at the Nou Camp.
The quality on display in the first half was excellent to watch. The game ebbed and flowed, and both sides were causing each other problems and looked capable of opening the scoring.
Liverpool wingers Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane were causing havoc for Barcelona’s full backs early on. Taking them on at will and opening spaces for their full backs to run into.
But it was Barcelona’s crisp passing and tricky footwork that lead to the game’s opening chances….
A quick one two gave Ivan Rakitic an excellent opportunity to slip Arturo Vidal in at close range, but a brilliant tackle from Joel Matip denied the Croat.
Not long after there were early warning signs of what Lionel Messi was capable of.
He breezed through Liverpool’s midfield leading to an opportunity for Phillippe Coutinho from range. The former Liverpool man could only hit his shot directly at Allison.
Naby Keita was forced off in the 24th minute with a suspected groin problem following a challenge from Rakitic. The in-form Guinean replaced by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
In this clash between two European heavyweights, it was one of the former reds, Luis Suarez who put the hosts ahead.
In an attempt to counter Messi, Liverpool had set up very narrow to deny the Argentine space.
However, left back Jordi Alba took advantage of the space he had been afforded to put a pinpoint pass in behind for Suarez, who flicked the ball past Allison to bag his first Champions League goal of the season.
Not ten minutes later Sadio Mane, much like Suarez for Barca’s goal made an excellent run behind to latch on to Henderson’s floated pass, but unlike the Uruguayan, he couldn’t find the perfect finish to level the scores as he skewed his effort over the bar.
Barcelona rode a wave of Liverpool pressure in the start of the second half, Salah forced a save from Barca keeper Ter Stegen and James Milner had a couple of opportunities on the edge of the box but couldn’t place his efforts either side of the German keeper.
Despite Liverpool’s hard work going forward it was Barcelona who got the vital second goal, ruthlessly punishing Liverpool against the run of play.
A tackle from Fabinho fortuitously popped up for Suarez, his instinctive knee rattled the crossbar before the ball fell to Messi free in the box who merely had to roll it into the empty net to double the deficit.
Not long after and Messi perhaps put the nail in Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions.
As he stood over a free kick, 25-30 yards out you would have thought it impossible that anybody could find the net past one of the world’s best keepers, but as everybody has seen across the years, Lionel Messi thrives on making the impossible possible. He stroked the ball over the wall with his wand of a left foot before it wickedly bent into the top corner, giving Liverpool’s keeper no chance and making sure that the Argentinian’s 600th Barcelona goal was one of his very best.
After the goal Liverpool heads didn’t go down, they didn’t give up.
The reds went right down the other end, substitute Roberto Firmino got on the end of a knock down and bent the ball past Barca’s onrushing goalkeeper, but it struck Gerard Pique on the line, it then fell to Mo Salah who could only send the ball back onto the post from close range.
Ousmane Dembele would have put the tie well out of Liverpool’s reach had he managed to do better than slice the ball into Allison’s grateful hands from close range with the last kick of the game.
Liverpool will now need to rely on possibly the most famous of Anfield nights if they want any chance of reaching back to back Champions League finals, who knows though, you can never say never in Liverpool’s famous old stadium on European nights.
The second leg at Anfield takes place on Tuesday 8th May.