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Lionel Messi, Barcelona Beat Mo Salah, Liverpool in First Leg of UCL Semi-Final | Bleacher Report

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 01:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring his side's first goal in the 26th minuteduring the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp on May 1, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images)Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

Barcelona will have the advantage going into the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final, as they beat Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou in the first leg on Wednesday. Lionel Messi scored a second-half brace, and his 600th Blaugrana goal.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring in a tight first half, taking advantage of some poor marking after 26 minutes to split the defence (U.S. viewers only):

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Perfect pass for the Suarez finish 🔥

The Red were the better team early in the second half but couldn’t draw level, and Messi continued his exceptional run against English opposition with 15 minutes left to play:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Messi has now scored against every single English team he’s ever faced 🔥

(via @brfootball)

He added to his tally after 82 minutes, putting the Spanish champions in an excellent position to advance to the final. The free-kick that got him to No. 600 was a gem (U.S. viewers only):

B/R Football @brfootball

Messi’s 600th club goal was just ridiculous 🤯

Mohamed Salah missed a golden opportunity to bag a crucial away goal, hitting the post from close range.

Barcelona haven’t been beaten at home in Europe since 2013. Bayern Munich were the last team to beat the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou.

Clutch Suarez is Still the Perfect Barcelona Striker

Fans and analysts will likely debate at length who was at fault for Suarez’s first-half goal, or whether the Uruguayan simply gave the Reds no chance.

Sportswriter Roger Gonzalez and Dermot Corrigan seemed to think the defenders could have done a lot better, particularly Virgil van Dijk:

Roger Gonzalez @RGonzalezCBS

Outstanding pass from Jordi Alba, but Matip and Van Dijk fell asleep.

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Pretty poor from Van Dijk who played Suarez onside and stood watching whole time.

But while the marking was bad, Suarez’s run and Alba’s pass made the move almost unstoppable. It’s the kind of goal we’ve seemingly seen hundreds of time from the Catalans, but that doesn’t make it any less special.

For Suarez, it was only his first goal of the UEFA Champions League campaign. The 32-year-old has struggled for consistency at times this season, although he has been significantly better in La Liga, where he has struck 21 times.

Joan Monfort/Associated Press

His up-and-down form has led to speculation the Catalans are looking for a replacement. Samuel Marsden and Moises Llorens of ESPN reported Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic is one of the top candidates.

But while the Blaugrana should invest in the future, Suarez is still the right man to lead the line right now. The former Liverpool star is a perfect fit for Barcelona’s intricate system, and he’s hugely influential in the buildup. The Catalans don’t need him to score 30+ goals every season―what they do need are his work rate and movement.

And it’s that movement that sets him apart: There are few strikers who would have spotted the space Suarez exploited against the Reds. It’s those kinds of plays that make him such a perfect fit at the Camp Nou, and why he’s still the perfect man to play alongside Messi.

Reds Undone by Messi, Missed Chances

The final scoreline of Wednesday’s match was harsh on the Reds, who were the better side for long stretches and really should have returned home with an away goal.

The second half, in particular, was almost one-way traffic at times, and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was Barcelona’s MVP until Messi took over:

B/R Football @brfootball

Second half summary:

Bleacher Report’s Matt Jones liked the Reds’ chances of knocking out the Catalans at Anfield prior to his quick double:

Matt Jones @MattJFootball

Regardless of what happens in the rest of this game, Liverpool have it in them to hammer Barcelona by a few goals at Anfield…

Liverpool didn’t end up in this difficult position just because of Messi’s genius, however. The Argentina international was largely invisible during the first half, and by the time he tapped home his first and scored a beauty for his second, the Reds should have already scored the away goal that could have given them the edge in his tie.

But Salah and Sadio Mane missed sharpness in front of goal, perhaps a logical consequence of playing so many minutes while Liverpool chase Champions League and Premier League glory. The Egyptian, in particular, will rue his horror miss in the second half.

Manager Jurgen Klopp also deserves some blame. His decision to play Joe Gomez backfired, and he waited far too long to respond to the introduction of Nelson Semedo.

Messi will steal the headlines for his two goals, but this Liverpool loss was as much about their missed opportunities as his individual brilliance.

What’s Next?

Barcelona, who have already won the La Liga title, visit Celta Vigo on Saturday. Liverpool will also play Saturday when they go to Newcastle. The Reds sit one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League standings, with two matches still to play.

The second leg of this tie will take place on Tuesday.


Updated: May 2, 2019 — 10:03 pm

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