Messi Sends Barca Into Champions League Semis as Bayern Wins

Barcelona beat AC Milan 3-1 and Bayern Munich defeated Marseille 2-0 to claim the first two spots in the Champions League soccer semifinals.

Lionel Messi scored with two penalty kicks last night at the Camp Nou to set a Champions League single-season goal record and send Barcelona into the final four for a fifth straight season following last week’s 0-0 draw in Milan.

“The most difficult thing in the world is to continue because you can win anything once but to do it again is very, very tough,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, whose team is seeking its fourth title in seven seasons, told reporters. “We know that we will have to reach the highest level if we want to go all the way to the final in Munich.”

Ivica Olic scored both goals as Bayern advanced 4-0 over two games against Marseille and stayed on course for a home final in Europe’s elite club competition. The championship match will be played May 19 at the Allianz Arena.

Barcelona will play Chelsea or Benfica in the semifinals, while Bayern meets record nine-time champion Real Madrid or APOEL Nicosia. Chelsea takes a 1-0 lead into today’s second game at Stamford Bridge, while Madrid hosts APOEL leading 3-0 from the first match.

Barcelona claimed its fifth straight semifinal berth last night to equal the mark set by Madrid from 1956 to 1960.

Messi scored twice in the first half to give him 14 goals in this season’s Champions League, breaking the record of 12 he shared with Ruud van Nistelrooy. He also matches the mark of 14 goals set by Milan’s Jose Altafini in 1962-63 when the competition was known as the European Cup.

Half-Century

The 24-year-old Argentine, named soccer’s best player the past three years, now has 50 goals in the Champions League, becoming the youngest player to reach the milestone.

Messi had two chances in the opening six minutes, shooting at goalkeeper Christian Abbiati after a run from midfield and firing wide from about six yards (5.5 meters) out. He scored in the 11th minute after being taken down by Luca Antonini.

Seven-time champion Milan then went ahead in the series on away goals with its first attempt in the 32nd minute as Antonio Nocerino took Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s pass and fired a low shot past Victor Valdes.

Barcelona was awarded a second penalty five minutes before halftime when Alessandro Nesta received a yellow card for grabbing Sergio Busquets’s shirt on a corner kick. Messi sent Abbiati the wrong way and drilled a shot in the lower right corner for a 2-1 lead.

Third Goal

Barcelona clinched its victory in the 53rd minute as Messi’s shot was blocked by Philippe Mexes and fell to Andres Iniesta, who beat Abbiati from close range.

“After their third goal it wasn’t easy to react,” Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “We were all disappointed during the interval after conceding late in the first half and when we came back we soon conceded another.”

Bayern dominated in Munich to reach the semifinals for the second time in three seasons. The four-time European champion had a 17-9 shot advantage and limited Marseille to three shots on target while being denied several times by visiting goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

“Playing for Bayern is never easy,” Munich midfielder Franck Ribery said on UEFA’s website. “You always have to go full throttle and always win. We have to continue like this in the games to come. ”

Bayern went ahead in the 13th minute when Ribery took the ball into the right side of the area and sent a low pass toward the middle that Olic knocked past Mandanda, who then made saves from Toni Kroos, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Olic and Thomas Muller.

Olic then hit the post before doubling the lead in the 37th minute. Ribery carried the ball from his own half into the Marseille area and laid off a pass to David Alaba, whose cross was tapped in by Olic.

“We lost to a great team but we did not give up,” said Marseille striker Loic Remy. “Hats off to Bayern, I hope they go all the way.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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