Report as Barca reach first semi-final since 2015; United's focus switches to Premier League top-four race
Wednesday 17 April 2019 05:57, UK
Lionel Messi's first-half double inspired Barcelona into their first Champions League semi-final since 2015 as Manchester United were knocked out of Europe after a 3-0 loss at the Nou Camp, and 4-0 defeat on aggregate.
Left bruised and bleeding from a clash with Chris Smalling in the 1-0 first-leg win last week, Messi had his payback, ending his six-year quarter-final drought with a fine low strike (16) before his second somehow squirmed under David de Gea (20).
United had started brightly before the quick-fire double with Marcus Rashford hitting the bar in the opening minute, but they could not mount an unlikely comeback at the scene of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's heroics 20 years ago, with Philippe Coutinho curling in a beauty to seal the tie (61) after the break.
The result means United have suffered their heaviest-ever aggregate defeat in a two-legged European tie.
Barca will discover their semi-final opponents on Wednesday when Liverpool take their 2-0 lead to Porto, while for United their focus switches to the top-four race in the Premier League, starting with a trip to Everton on Super Sunday.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (7), Sergi Roberto (7), Pique (7), Lenglet (7), Alba (8), Rakitic (7), Busquets (7), Arthur (7), Messi (9), Suarez (6), Coutinho (8)
Subs: Semedo (6), Vidal (5), Dembele (5)
Man Utd: De Gea (4), Lindelof (6), Jones (5), Smalling (6), Young (4), Fred (5), McTominay (6), Pogba (5), Lingard (5), Rashford (5), Martial (5)
Subs: Dalot (6), Lukaku (6), Sanchez (6)
Man of the match: Lionel Messi
As United returned to the stadium of manager Solskjaer's last-gasp treble-winning goal in 1999, they almost got off to the perfect start as Rashford raced clear in the opening minute, only to see his toe-poked effort hit the top of the bar.
Scott McTominay's touch then let him down two minutes later when seemingly through on goal, and after Barca saw a penalty decision overturned by VAR when Fred dispossessed Ivan Rakitic, the hosts took the lead in the 16th minute.
Ashley Young gave the ball away at left-back and was then unable to stop Messi, who cut across the edge of the box before finishing with a fine low effort into the bottom corner for his first goal at this stage since 2013.
United made three changes from the first leg with Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial replacing Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot and Romelu Lukaku – Alexis Sanchez was back on the bench.
After resting the majority of his players on the weekend, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde made one change from last week’s match at Old Trafford, with Sergi Roberto in for Nelson Semedo at right-back.
It got worse for United just four minutes later, with Messi scoring his 24th goal against an English side when his tame effort from outside the area squeezed under De Gea.
Barca were in cruise control in the second half, and Coutinho quashed any hopes of a United fightback by curling an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
There was very nearly a consolation late on for Alexis Sanchez, returning off the bench for his first appearance since March 2, but the former Barcelona forward saw his header saved superbly by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
After 12 games and 50 shots without a quarter-final goal, Messi put that statistic to bed in style by capitalising on Young's poor clearance, while the Argentine can only thank De Gea for a fortunate second.
As is so often the case at the Nou Camp, Messi was the difference. He left Phil Jones behind with some mesmerising skill as Barca chased a third, and like most of the home team, was happy to coast in the second half after Coutinho's strike.
- Lionel Messi has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season – 10 more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
- Messi has scored twice as many Champions League goals against English sides as any other player (24 goals).
United are in action at Everton on Super Sunday before they host rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford next Wednesday in what is set to be a crucial derby as far the title and top-four battle is concerned.