An­other ‘in­cred­i­ble’ record for Messi as group lead­ers Barcelona edge past Slavia

The National - News - - SPORT FOOTBALL - THE NA­TIONAL

Lionel Messi claimed an­other goal-scor­ing record as Barcelona edged a spir­ited Slavia Prague 2-1 to stay top of Cham­pi­ons League Group F.

Messi opened the scor­ing after three min­utes, beat­ing Slavia goal­keeper On­drej Ko­lar with a low left-footed shot to be­come the first player to score at least once in 15 con­sec­u­tive Cham­pi­ons League sea­sons.

The Ar­gen­tine, 32, first robbed mid­fielder Petr Sev­cik out­side the Slavia box be­fore an ex­change with Brazil­ian Arthur put him neatly through the static home de­fence.

Barca earned a sec­ond on 57 min­utes when Slavia winger Peter Olayinka de­flected a Luis Suarez close-range shot from an im­pos­si­ble an­gle into his own net after the hosts had failed to clear Messi’s free-kick.

Olayinka sealed Barca’s sixth straight com­pet­i­tive win but de­prived Suarez of a goal that would end his four-year drought in away games in Euro­pean cup com­pe­ti­tions.

Be­fore that, left-back Jan Bo­ril equalised for Slavia five min­utes after half-time, cap­i­tal­is­ing on a su­perb pass threaded by Lukas Ma­so­pust that found him one-on-one with goal­keeper Marc An­dre ter Ste­gen.

Barcelona have seven points from three games and are three ahead of In­ter Mi­lan who beat Borus­sia Dort­mund 2-0. Slavia sit at the bot­tom with a sin­gle point.

Barca mid­fielder Frenkie De Jong ad­mit­ted Slavia could count them­selves un­for­tu­nate on the night.

“I think we were a bit lucky to­day,” he said. “They did good, we were not good enough es­pe­cially on the ball and then [in terms of] pres­sure it was not our best game.

“But at the end, we won an away game in the Cham­pi­ons League so we are happy about this. Some­times you have games like this. Hope­fully not too many this sea­son but to­day was one of them.”

Barcelona man­ager Ernesto Valverde also praised the ri­vals. “The re­sult could have been bet­ter, but Slavia took risks, they played very well and made us de­fend a lot,” he said. “We started very well, we dom­i­nated the game, but we also lost the ball a few times and they threat­ened – they re­ally made us suf­fer be­cause when they strug­gle, they boost their of­fence and that’s ex­actly what they did to­day.

“We are at the top of the ta­ble and we play the next two games at home. They will show us where we are.”

Com­ment­ing on Messi’s mile­stone, Valverde said: “It is an in­cred­i­ble record. I hope Leo will con­tinue to do well.”

Slavia coach Jin­drich Tr­pisovsky be­moaned Slavia’s bad luck with the ugly sec­ond goal. “It’s a shame to lose with a goal like this,” he said.

“When we have five chances and we don’t score, it hurts, be­cause we know that ev­ery mis­take we make and ev­ery chance by our op­po­nent is dan­ger­ous. Bo­ril is the only win­ner on our side tonight, it will be writ­ten in his­tory that he scored against Barcelona.

“But if you waste chances in the last min­utes that could equalise against Barcelona, it will stay in­side you for a long time.”

Valverde made two changes from last week­end’s 3-0 win at Eibar, call­ing up Nel­son Semedo and Ger­ard Pique to re­place Sa­muel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto, both side­lined with knee in­juries.

Jaroslav Ze­leny al­most grabbed a goal for Slavia on 20 min­utes after a su­perb pass from Bo­ril, but his shot bounced off the feet of a div­ing ter Ste­gen.

At the other end of the pitch, Messi curled a free-kick into the Slavia box but Cle­ment Len­glet’s poke was too weak to sur­prise Ko­lar, while min­utes later Suarez blasted the ball over the cross­bar.

Ko­lar then de­nied Suarez after a fine pass from Messi be­fore kick­ing out Frenkie de Jong’s pow­er­ful low at­tempt from in­side the box. “The open­ing min­utes were dread­ful, but if I look be­yond the first twenty min­utes I must say the boys played a fan­tas­tic game,” Tr­pisovsky said.

I think we were a bit lucky to­day. Some­times you have games like this. Hope­fully not too many this sea­son FRENKIE DE JONG Barcelona mid­fielder

Reuters

Lionel Messi cel­e­brates with Arthur, cen­tre, after scor­ing the first goal for Barcelona against Slavia Prague

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