Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday April 16th to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals. A first half double from Lionel Messi and a second-half stunner from Philippe Coutinho gave the Spanish champions a comfortable victory over the two legs.
United almost took the lead inside the first minute as Paul Pogba’s pass put Marcus Rashford through, who smashed a shot against the crossbar. In the 11th minute, Barca seemed to have a penalty as Ivan Rakitic was brought down by Fred inside the box. Referee Felix Brych pointed to the spot but overturned his decision after checking the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). As the game restarted, the away side continued their fine start as Rashford had a shot saved by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen just a minute later.
Barcelona took the lead in the 16th minute, Messi dispossessed Ashley Young and dribbled to the edge of the box before curling in a shot to the bottom corner. The Argentinian doubled the lead, just two minutes later, after he dispossessed Fred and struck at goal. The ball crawled beneath goalkeeper David De Gea who would be disappointed not to have saved it.
The La Liga leaders were not letting up as Messi blasted a shot over the bar after a counter attack in the 25th minute. Rakitic had a header saved before a quick break led to Jordi Alba squaring for Sergi Roberto whose shot from point-blank range came off the face of De Gea.
The home side picked up where they left off at the start of the second-half as a Messi goal-bound shot was deflected wide by Young.
On the hour mark the Catalans finally got their third goal. Messi’s ball over the top was touched back by Alba to Coutinho. The Brazilian curled in a stunning strike into the top corner to put his side three goals up. A few minutes later the hosts were close to a fourth as Messi’s bicycle kick from inside the area flew inches wide.
Manchester United failed to get a late consolation as Jesse Lingard fired a shot over the bar before substitute Alexis Sanchez had a diving header brilliantly saved by Ter Stegen. Messi was prevented from getting his hat-trick in stoppage time as his shot was palmed away by De Gea.
The referee blew the final whistle as Barcelona reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. They will play the winner of the Liverpool vs Porto quarter final in the semis. Liverpool are strong favourites having won the first-leg 2-0 at home, with the second-leg set to be played on Wednesday April 17th.
The BBC reported that Manchester United’s manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, spoke to BT Sport after the match and praised Messi. "I have to say Lionel Messi is top quality and he was the difference of course. At 2-0 straight after it was game over. He's a different class. He and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best players of the last decade, everyone agrees on that one. Messi showed his quality.”
He also admitted that Barcelona are levels above his side. "We have to aspire to get to that level of Barcelona. We can get there but we have loads of work to do. If we want to get back to Man Utd's true level, true traditions, we have to challenge Barcelona.
"They were a couple of levels above over the two games. We want to play these games again next year, so we have a massive week coming up. There is no point dwelling on what could have been, we have to focus on that week."