Messi sets CL record in Barca win

Hat-trick hero Lionel Messi became the Champions League's all-time top goalscorer on Tuesday night as Barcelona defeated APOEL 4-0.

Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Neymar were all dropped by Luis Enrique, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Marc Bartra, Javier Mascherano, Rafinha and Pedro Rodriguez taking their places.

Efstathios Aloneftis, meanwhile, was the hosts' only change from their stalemate with Apollon Limassol.

Within just a couple of minutes Messi was denied after he skipped past a string of challenges and saw a low effort saved by his former Barca teammate Urko Pardo.

The Cypriot champions had planned to adopt a counterattacking style from the outset, but they weren't given a moment's rest by their opponents. At the other end, Jordi Alba ballooned a gilt-edged chance, as he failed to convert Messi's perfectly-clipped cross.

Barca continued to enjoy the lion's share of the ball, and their dominance was duly rewarded midway through the first half. Luis Suarez left his marker for dead on the edge of the box with a devastating turn and slotted the finish home.

The Uruguayan may have broken his Catalan duck, but he was overshadowed by none other than Messi. Playing a one-two with Rafinha, the midfielder struck an effort from 20 yards out, which the No 10 deflected beyond Pardo for his 72nd Champions League goal, beating Raul's record in the process.

The second period was a far more sterile affair, as Barca's remained in total control of possession, barring the odd misplaced pass. Pedro had the best chance during the opening exchanges, dragging a shot just wide of the post following some neat work from Messi and Suarez.

Minutes later, La Blaugrana did net their third of the evening. Dani Alves' beautiful ball was met by Messi in the box, and the Argentine took a touch before nestling the finish into the bottom-right corner of Pardo's goal.

Manduca – the hero of APOEL's previous Champions League campaign – ran out of steam by the midway point of the half, and his replacement Tomas De Vincenti almost made an instant impact from a quick-fire break, which Ter Stegen parried away with his right arm.

The young attacker was involved again soon after, as he absorbed the tackle which was enough to send Rafinha off for a second bookable offence. In a subsequent phase of play, Joao Guilherme was also given his marching orders, though not before a bizarre handshake with referee Gianluca Rocchi.

Suarez was desperately unlucky not to have added to his single strike, as he was frustrated by Pardo shortly before his substitution, but Messi put the result beyond any reasonable doubt with a simple tap-in from Pedro's pull-back in the dying minutes.

APOEL 0-4 Barca

Suarez 27, Messi 38, 58, 87

APOEL: Pardo; Mario Sergio, Joao Guilherme, Carlao, Antoniades; Tiago Gomes, Nuno Morais, Vinicius (Djebbour 74), Aloneftis (Efren 45); Manduca (De Vincenti 63), Sheridan

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba (Adriano 62); Mascherano, Rakitic (Xavi 62), Rafinha; Messi, Suarez (Busquets 76), Pedro

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi [ITA]

Tags APOEL Lionel Messi
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