Messi double seals Ajax’s fate

Lionel Messi was the star of the show as Barcelona ran out 2-0 winners over Ajax in Amsterdam.

The Argentine struck twice in the second half to ease Barca’s path into the next round and equal Raul’s record Champions League goals haul of 71.

Luis Suarez was making his Champions League debut for Barcelona in their Group F clash, while Marc-Andre Ter Stegen started in goal in place of Claudio Bravo.

Xavi Hernandez was selected in midfield at the expense of Rafinha, but there was still no place in Luis Enrique’s team for Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra being preferred in central defence.

Ajax had Viktor Fischer unavailable with a hamstring injury but South African midfielder Thulani Sereno was fit to take his place in the engine room alongside Davy Klaasen and Lucas Andersen.

Both sides began the game cautiously and the first real incident of note occurred on 10 minutes when El Ghazi was booked for appearing to elbow Sergio Busquets, who required treatment.

Schone then had a speculative shot that went well wide of Ter Stegen’s goal as the home side attempted to play Barca at their own game by dominating possession, while just before the half-hour mark the Barca ‘keeper had to turn aside a shot from Klaasen.

However, it was the Spaniards who took the lead eight minutes before the break through Lionel Messi. The Argentine was on hand to head the ball home after Ajax stopper Cillessen left his goal unattended and was beaten to the ball by Bartra, who sent it over for Messi to guide into the net.

It was perhaps not the best half of football the Catalans have played this season but they were relieved to go in at the break a goal to the good.

The first action of the second half came 15 minutes after the break when Suarez was unable to beat Cillessen in a one-on-one and Messi put the rebound wide, with the visitors looking more like their old selves.

Ajax were then reduced to 10 men on 71 minutes when Veltman was sent off for a second bookable offence after blocking Messi in the middle of the pitch, the second time running at home against Barca that the 22-year-old has received his marching orders.

The home side’s misery was compounded five minutes later when Messi got his second of the night as he got on the end of a one-two with Pedro to tap the ball home.

Rakitic had a thunderous volley well saved by Cillessen on 80 minutes, his last action before being replaced by Rafinha, and it proved to be the final meaningful action of the game as Luis Enrique’s men ran out ultimately deserving winners.

Ajax 0-2 Barcelona

Messi 36 (B), 76 (B)

Veltman sent off on 71 minutes

Ajax: Cillessen; Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander, Boilesen; Klaassen, Serero (Denswil 80), Andersen (Riedewald 72); Schöne, Sigthorsson (Milik 62), El Ghazi.

Ajax substitutes: Boer, Riedewald, Denswil, Viergever, Zimling, Kishna, Milik

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Alves (Adriano 83), Bartra, Mascherano, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Rakitic (Rafinha 80), Neymar (Pedro 75), Suarez, Messi.

Barcelona substitutes: Bravo, Pique, Douglas, Adriano, Rafinha, Munir, Pedro

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Tags Ajax
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