Easy for Messi's Barcelona
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Lionel Messi joined Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League's 100-goal club after scoring twice to lead Barcelona past Chelsea and into the Champions League quarterfinals for an 11th straight season yesterday.
Messi also set up Ousmane Dembele in a 3-0 win at Camp Nou after he had scored Barcelona's goal in the opening-leg 1-1 draw in London.
Messi beat Thibaut Courtois with two strikes between the Chelsea goalkeeper's legs from very tight angles on the side of the box. He struck the opener three minutes into the match and took Barcelona's third goal in the 63rd.
"Messi is the player that makes the difference in each game. It is a blessing for this club to have him," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said. "I hope we can get close to winning the Champions League. We've taken another step."
Ronaldo, with 117 goals, is the only other player to reach the century-mark in Europe's elite club competition. Messi reached his 100th goal in 123 matches, while Real Madrid's star needed 144 games.
But the most dazzling moment from the Argentina forward, who returned from missing one match for the birth of his third son on Saturday, came when he helped Dembele score his first goal for Barcelona after he stole the ball from former Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas and darted past two would-be tacklers in the 20th.
Barcelona remained unbeaten in 25 straight Champions League matches at Camp Nou, a run that dates back to 2013. The hosts also stayed in contention for a rare treble of titles. They lead the Spanish league and have reached the final of the Copa del Rey.
Chelsea will now have to focus on finishing in the top four in the Premier League to return to tournament. They are currently in fifth place.