Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Barcelona 4 Stuttgart 0 (agg 5-1) Lionel Messi magic inspires as holders cruise
By Pete Jenson in Barcelona

The toast of Catalunya: Lionel Messi struck a brace as the holders sailed into the last eight

Leo Messi dazzled the Nou Camp last night as Barcelona survived the last-16 curse which has claimed three holders in the last four years.

Manchester United, the only other holders to have made it into the quarter-finals since 2005, will hope to avoid them in tomorrow’s draw.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola said: ‘If only Manchester United have done it in the last few years it is for a reason. It is difficult and we have done it.’

Messi was at his brilliant best and Stuttgart coach Christian Gross said: ‘I think we can start comparing him to Maradona.’

Guardiola sprung a surprise by leaving out Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This allowed Messi to operate through the middle and the Argentine scored his 31st and 32nd goals of the season to make it eight in four games.

Guardiola added: ‘Last year we won six titles and he played wide but we need him involved and sometimes he sees more of the ball when he plays more in the centre.

But he is the best, wherever he plays.’

Rampant: Barcelona players mob Pedro

The Nou Camp crowd turned up the volume and, on 13 minutes, they had a first goal to enjoy. Messi took a pass from Yaya Toure, carried the ball to the edge of the Stuttgart area and, with a swing of his left boot, flashed a shot into Jens Lehmann’s top right-hand corner.

Messi turned provider in the 21st minute, clipping a perfect diagonal ball across the box for Toure. He squared for Pedro to convert from close range, making it 2-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

Small but perfectly formed: Lionel Messi strikes the opening goal

Messi extended the lead on the hour. Dani Alves touched the ball on and the Argentina star spun away from Gebhart before firing past Lehmann from 20 yards.

Bojan’s 88th-minute strike completed an easy win.


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