Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool: Suarez & magical Messi do damage to seize big Champions League advantage
Luis Suarez struck against his former club while Lionel Messi scored twice – including a stunning free-kick – as Barcelona beat Liverpool 3-0 at Camp Nou to seize the advantage in their Champions League semi-final tie.
Suarez struck in the 26th minute as he timed his run perfectly, darting between Liverpool defenders Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk to stab a Jordi Alba cross into the net.
While Liverpool frequently threatened in a breathless encounter, Barcelona doubled their advantage with 15 minutes to play when Suarez hit the crossbar, only for the ball to rebound to Messi six yards out, who chested the ball down and tapped it home.
Messi then added a simply superb third on 82 minutes, curling a trademark left-footed free-kick into the top corner.
Mohamed Salah hit the post late on for Liverpool, but it was Messi and Suarez who stole the show to hand their team a huge advantage heading to Anfield for the second leg next week.
BARCELONA WIN BREATHLESS BATTLE
Liverpool started brightly enough at a packed Camp Nou, enjoying more of the ball in the opening stages and looking to stretch Barcelona at every opportunity with long, diagonal balls to Sadio Mane and Salah.
The visitors thought they had a good shout for a penalty early on when Mane raced through into the Barcelona box and went down under pressure from Gerard Pique, there was but nothing from referee Björn Kuipers or the VAR, despite the incident appearing to be worth checking, at the very least.
Barcelona then had their own penalty claim waived away when Messi jinked inside the box, the ball popping up to strike Joel Matip's hand, albeit from very close range. Again, nothing was given.
Former Reds man Philippe Coutinho then drew a save from Brazil teammate Alisson, as Barcelona started to find some rhythm.
Liverpool lost Naby Keita to injury with less than 25 minutes on the clock, the midfielder hobbling off after being caught by Ivan Rakitic.
England’s Jordan Henderson – Liverpool’s club captain – replaced him but it was a blow as Keita had made an impressive start.
Shortly after, and Liverpool were behind, and it was former striker Suarez coming back to bite them.
Heading into the game, much was made of van Dijk’s battle with Messi, but it was the neglect of the other half of the Barcelona attacking equation which initially cost Liverpool.
The Uruguayan darted between Matip and van Dijk to latch onto an inch-perfect cross from the left by Jordi Alba, poking past Alisson to hand Barcelona the lead.
It was an instinctive run and fabulous finish from the former Liverpool man, who showed no heed to fans of his old club, celebrating the goal without restraint.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had surprised many by bringing in Joe Gomez at right-back for Trent Alexander-Arnold, and debate will rage as to whether the latter would have done a better job stopping the Alba threat for the goal.Also on rt.com 500 not out: Luis Suarez's strike against Liverpool takes Barcelona to Champions League milestone
Both teams continued to stretch each other as the game was played at a breathless pace, with Sadio Mane spurning a big chance by scooping the ball over the bar when he was played through.
Liverpool started the second half brightly, with James Milner testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a curled effort from inside the box.
It was Salah’s turn soon after, as his smart strike drew a low save from the German as Liverpool penned Barcelona back.
But the hosts wrestled back the momentum, with Messi showing his creative threat by playing in Arturo Vidal on 65 minutes, but the Chilean’s attempted pass across goal was snuffed out by van Dijk.
The see-saw nature of the contest continued, as Messi again showed his supreme vision to chip a pass in for Suarez, who had timed his run perfectly to beat the Liverpool backline.
But Matip scrambled back to clear the danger for a big intervention from the Liverpool defender to keep the deficit at one goal.
MESSI STEPS UP
Barcelona did double the deficit on 75 minutes though, as they broke in numbers before the ball fell to Suarez, who chipped onto the crossbar.
The bounce fell kindly for Messi, who chested it down and tapped into the empty net from three yards out.
That was prosaic from the Argentine, but his second of the night was anything but as he lined up a free-kick 30 yards out, curling it into the top corner, handing Alisson no chance.
Salah hit the post soon after, but the damage was done, Liverpool were left with their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.
It seems unlikely that even an epic Anfield night will be enough, given they are up against a player who continues to stamp his authority on the game as surely the best ever.