Lionel Messi happens. It took four games, but Juventus finally found that out in Barcelona’s 3-0 victory on Tuesday.
Coming into the opening match of this year’s Champions League, Messi had never scored against Gigi Buffon. Last year, Juve embarrassed and outclassed Barcelona over two legs in the quarterfinals of the competition and the Argentine was ineffective in both matches.
This year, without the services of Neymar, and with Luis Suarez faltering in front of goal and Ousmane Dembélé yet to get into his groove, it looked to be more of the same against the Italian side. And for most of the first half of Barcelona’s opening Champions League group match against Juventus, it was Messi trying to create to no avail. Then with less than 30 seconds left in the first half, he broke his curse against Buffon and reminded us what he is capable of.
A long ball by Gerard Pique found Dembele, who turned his defender on the right wing and sent the ball centrally to Messi. Messi then drove the ball into the attacking third, played a one-two with Suarez beyond two defenders and placed the ball so quickly and perfectly into the bottom corner of the far post that Buffon didn’t have time to bend his knee.
Lionel Messi = still v good. https://t.co/1h1zrEqCxm
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 12, 2017
The half ended, but there was even more to come.
After the restart, Messi picked up where he left off. He constantly beat Juve defenders and strained his opponents with his dribbling and passing. At one point he was given a yellow for mock-waving a card at the referee, and in asking for Miralem Pjanic to be booked, he earned a booking himself. Nevertheless, his energy paid off for Barcelona’s second goal.
Popping up on the right wing, he drove the ball into the box and sent in a low cross between a defender’s legs. Buffon was able to parry the cross with his leg but the ball came out to Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the box. Rakitic made no mistake and Barcelona were then cruising against the team that they struggled against last year.
Not satisfied with a goal and creating the second, Messi kept pushing against the Italian champions until he grabbed his second of the night. The goal was such a standard left-footer goal that Arjen Robben should feel heartened when he watches it. Messi got the ball on the right side of the box, cut inside, faked the shot to commit the defenders and then once again rooted Buffon to the spot from the middle. That made it eight goals for Messi for the season, seven in his last three games after his hat trick at the weekend against Espanyol.
— FOX Deportes (@FOXDeportes) September 12, 2017
Had it not been for the woodwork in the second half, Messi would have also finished with three goals against Juve, but a vicious shot by him cannoned off the crossbar and bounced off the back of a defeated Buffon before going out of play.
If the beginning of the domestic and Champions League season is any indication, Messi is determined to make sure that Barcelona feels the absence of Neymar as little as possible. If he continues to play like this then there’s no reason the Spanish club shouldn’t be successful. Because when Messi is at his best, he is damn near unstoppable. Juventus found that out the hard way.