Barcelona’s Lionel Messi struck twice and set up Neymar in the final 13 minutes as Pep Guardiola’s return to the Camp Nou as Bayern Munich coach ended in a 3-0 defeat in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final.
On his 100th appearance in European football, Messi’s double moved him back ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo as the all-time leading scorer with 77 in the Champions League and Barca to the brink of their first final in four years.
Manuel Neuer had kept Bayern in the game with a string of fine saves, but was helpless as Messi drilled home the opener from the edge of the area in the 77th minute and then delightfully chipped the German three minutes later.
Messi then fed Neymar in stoppage time to roll past Neuer and hand Bayern an almost impossible task in next week’s second-leg.
Guardiola had described Messi as “unstoppable” in the pre-match press conference and Barca defender Gerard Pique agreed, whilst also heaping praise upon the Catalans’ defence which prevented the visitors from having a single shot on target.
“Guardiola knows Messi well and knows that if he is inspired no one can stop him. He scored two fantastic goals,” said Pique.
“We played a sensational match. Defensively we were very good because that a team like Bayern doesn’t have a shot on target is sensational. Then we took our chances up front and did a lot of damage on the counter-attack.”
Despite a fine individual performance, Neuer admitted he had been outdone by Messi.
“I think the first goal is what did it. A player like Messi is hard to stop,” said the German international.
“Sometimes you are the winner, sometimes you’re the loser in those one-on-ones.”
Guardiola is Barca’s most successful ever coach having won 14 trophies in four years between 2008 and 2012 and was given a warm reception by the home fans as he took his seat for the first time in the away dugout.