Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen  7 - 1

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Guardiola gushing over Messi magic

8 March 2012 15:42

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola heaped praise on Lionel Messi after he netted five times in Wednesday's 7-1 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen.

Champions League holders Barca coasted into the quarter-finals of the competition with a 10-2 aggregate victory over the hapless Bundesliga side, who were ripped to shreds in the round-of-16 second leg at Camp Nou.

Not for the first time, it was Argentina international Messi who stole the show, becoming the first player to score five times in a single Champions League match since the European format was introduced in 1992-93.

"Tonight we witnessed one of (Lionel) Messi's most special nights; watching it was like receiving a gift," Guardiola said.

"He deserves to be honoured right now because it's something really incredible that he is now just seven goals behind (Barcelona's all-time top scorer) Cesar (Rodriguez) - (and) he's only 24."

"It's not easy to score five goals in a single game and that's coming from someone who scored 11 in his entire career."

"If he wants to, he'll score six one day. I have to also say that (Andres) Iniesta played magnificently too."

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell was another to marvel at Messi's ingenuity, labelling him 'best player in history'.

"We have to get the most out of experiencing, of being alive to see how Messi plays," Rosell said.

"I still see debates sometimes about whether he is the best player in history or if he can be compared to other players. For me, you just can't compare."

"He is the best player in history. I think we'll never see such a big player again, so let's enjoy him and hope it lasts for many many years. Let's enjoy him because he is something stratospheric."

Barca have not exited as early as the round-of-16 since going out on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw with Liverpool in 2007.

And with two of the last three European Cups going back to Catalonia, Barca are now on course to become the first club since AC Milan in 1990 to retain the trophy, a feat which no team has managed in the Champions League era.

"We've reached the quarter-finals for the last five years now and that says something about the great stability here," Guardiola said.

"This really is the most beautiful competition. The team we were facing tonight eliminated Valencia and only a few days ago beat Bayern Munich, that speaks volumes of our achievement."

"We have to thank all of the players and the staff at the club."

Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt knew his team needed to be at their best to have any chance, and was unable to fault an extraordinary display from the home team.

"Though we played Barcelona, this loss really hurts," he said.

"Criticism will come and we have to live with it. We weren't at our best and if you play Barcelona, you need to have a perfect day."

"We tried to keep up, but they punished us. That can happen against an opponent like Barcelona."

"They have it all, technique, tactics and team spirit. A perfect performance."

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Champions League: Barcelona 7 Bayer Leverkusen 1

8 March 2012 02:50

Lionel Messi scored a record five goals to help Barcelona past Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 in their Champions League clash on Wednesday.

The Catalan giants sealed a 10-2 aggregate victory to advance into the quarter-finals of the European competition, with Champions League debutant Cristian Tello adding a brace to Messi's brilliant tally.

Barca had control of the match from the early stages of the match, and Messi nearly put his side ahead after 11 minutes after being played into the box by Cesc Fabregas, only to be foiled by Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who pushed the Argentine's shot around the post.

Xavi was next to threaten Leno's goal, with free-kicks on 13 and 24 minutes causing trouble, but Leno was on hand to keep out the midfielder's attempts.

Leverkusen's fortunes eventually turned on 25 minutes, when Messi latched onto Xavi's chipped ball before lifting his finish over Leno and into the net with relative ease.

In the 42nd minute, Messi had time and space to fire an unstoppable finish into the lower-left corner, doubling the hosts' advantage and putting the tie beyond any doubt before half-time.

Five minutes after the break, Messi completed his hat-trick with another phenomenal finish. After receiving Fabregas' ball over the top, the 24-year-old created just enough space to shoot, and again chipped his finish, leaving Leno with no chance.

Tello joined the fray as a substitute on 55 minutes, and within seconds found himself at the end of a Fabregas flick on, with which the Spain Under-23 forward struck into the net.

The 20-year-old made it two goals seven minutes later, as he received the ball in a similar position, and again beat Leno with a low strike.

Messi grabbed his fourth in between Tello's goals, making him the first player in history to score four goals in two separate Champions League games during his career. The Ballon d'Or winner was initially halted by Leno, but the shot-stopper spilled the ball, allowing Messi to casually slot home from an acute angle.

Barca rested on their lead for much of the final half-hour, while Leverkusen offered little resistance as the hosts dominated possession. Five minutes from the final whistle, however, Messi scored a brilliant fifth, bending his strike from the edge of the box just inside the left post.

The Argentine's tally was the greatest-ever for a player in Europe's elite competition, and raised his count to 48 goals in 42 games.

Leverkusen would get a strike at the death as Karim Bellarabi played a 1-2 with Simon Rolfes before striking a hard finish to the far post, but it was little consolation for Leverkusen, whose defeat equalled the worst-ever result for a team in one leg in the round-of-16.

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Champions League preview: Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen

5 March 2012 18:35

Barcelona are primed to book a Champions League quarter-finals place as they take a 3-1 lead into the second leg against Bayer Leverkusen.

La Liga giants Barca, the reigning European champions, are aiming to reach the last eight of the competition for the fifth consecutive season, and have the luxury of taking a two-goal advantage into the return leg of their round-of-16 clash at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola's men have been inconsistent in the league this campaign, falling 10 points adrift of rivals Real Madrid.

Their 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday came without Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who missed the match through suspension.

Barca have an imposing record in European home matches, unbeaten in their last 13 - including 11 wins - dating back to October 2009.

Messi will return for the second leg having terrorised the Leverkusen defence in the previous meeting on February 14, while Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez netted a brace in that win.

But Barca will be without Sanchez for the second leg after he limped off with a torn thigh muscle in the victory over Sporting Gijon.

Guardiola's star-studded midfield are again likely to dominate possession, although for a brief spell after half-time in the first leg Robin Dutt's side showed they were capable of matching it with the European champions.

The huge task facing Dutt's Bundesliga outfit is underlined by their miserable Champions League away record.

Leverkusen have failed to win in their last 12 Champions League away matches, drawing three and losing nine.

Stefan Kiessling was on the scoresheet in Leverkusen's 2-0 league win over Bayern Munich on Saturday, and with his side needing goals in Spain, must play a big part if they are to progress.

Switzerland attacker Eren Derdiyok is still searching for his first goal of the year and could be given a start as Leverkusen look to erase the deficit against Barcelona.

But Barca's stellar home record and form means this shapes as an almost an impossible task for Leverkusen at Camp Nou.

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 2 +4 6
2 2 +3 4
3 2 +2 4
4 2 +1 4
5 2 +1 4

Bundesliga table

# Team MP D P
1 2 +4 6
2 2 +3 4
3 2 +2 4
4 2 +2 4
5 2 +1 4