Lionel Messi, APOEL Set Records in Reaching Champions League Quarterfinals
Messi led Barcelona to a 7-1 rout of Bayer Leverkusen last night to complete a 10-2 victory over two games. Cristian Tello added two goals as defending champion Barcelona scored its biggest victory in European soccer’s elite club competition.
“It was beautiful to score five goals,” Messi, who was named the world’s best player for the third straight year in January, said on the competition’s website. “In the Champions League we want to go as far as possible, but we know no matter who we draw at this stage it is going to be difficult because only the best teams get this far.”
APOEL beat Lyon 4-3 in a penalty shootout after its 1-0 victory in Nicosia left the teams tied 1-1 after two matches. Goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis made two saves in the shootout and APOEL converted all four of its attempts.
Barcelona and APOEL join seven-time champion AC Milan and Benfica in the quarterfinals. The remaining four spots will be filled next week with Basel, Marseille and Napoli leading after their first games and record nine-time winner Real Madrid tied 1-1 with CSKA Moscow. The quarterfinal draw will take place March 16 at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Messi’s five goals at the Camp Nou eclipsed the Champions League record of four accomplished seven times, most recently by Lyon’s Bafetimbi Gomis against Dinamo Zagreb in the group stage in December.
Messi also matched the single-season record of 12 goals set by himself in 2010-11 and former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002-03. He’s scored 53 goals in 49 games this season for Barcelona and the Argentina national team and has 49 goals in 64 career Champions League matches.
“We’ve never seen anyone like him,” Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas said in a televised interview. “We know what he’s capable of and we’re very happy to have him on our team.”
Barcelona took the lead in the 26th minute as Xavi Hernandez sent a ball over the top of the Leverkusen defense to Messi, who scooped a shot over goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Messi made it 2-0 three minutes before halftime with a shot into the corner and completed his hat trick four minutes after the break with another chip over Leno.
Tello scored in the 55th minute, two minutes after coming on as a substitute for Andres Iniesta, and Messi added his fourth goal three minutes later.
Tello scored again in the 62nd minute and Messi netted his record-setting goal with five minutes remaining. Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi then closed the scoring in the final minute.
APOEL continued its historic run in the competition by erasing a 1-0 deficit from the opening game in France.
Gustavo Manduca scored in the ninth minute at GSP Stadium in Nicosia. Manduca was then sent off for a second yellow card with five minutes of extra time remaining, though Lyon was unable to take advantage and the game went to penalties.
Each team made its first three attempts, with Lyon’s Lisandro scoring after his shot hit the post and went in off Chiotis’s back. The APOEL keeper then dived to his left to save Alexandre Lacazette’s effort and Ivan Trickovski scored to give the home side the lead. Chiotis then dived to his left again to stop Michel Bastos’s shot and clinch the victory.
“It’s the worst way to go out,” Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom said on UEFA’s website. “When it comes to the penalty shootout anything can happen. We’re in a tough situation now. But we’ll fight to be back.”