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Lionel Messi got his second straight hat trick and scored his 72nd career UEFA Champions League goal to become the all-time leader and Luis Suárez added his first score of the season as FC Barcelona rolled to a dominating 4-0 victory over Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday night at the GSP Stadium.
A night for milestones
Messi’s record-breaking score in the 38th minute was Barça’s second of the evening and came on a deflection of a shot by Rafinha Alcántara, skidding into the back of the net. On the goal, the Argentinian attacker surpassed previous record holder Raúl González. It was the second record for Messi this week after breaking Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga scoring record on Saturday night versus Sevilla.
Barça had complete control of the match from the opening kick-off, with hosts Apoel barely managing to cross midfield. While the Catalans had virtually unchallenged possession, their opponent was well organised on defence through the first quarter-hour.
However, Barça’s persistence paid off in the 26th minute on an outstanding show of individual skill by Suárez. The Uruguayan received the ball with his back to the goal at 20 metres, totally faked out the defender, spun around, took two steps and fired low into the back right corner for the game’s opening score.
It was the the nimble-footed Suárez’s first goal of the season, and his first for Barça.
Leo does it again
With Barça up 2-0, the second half picked up right where the first half ended. Barça continued to have their way and Pedro came within a hair of extending the lead, only to see his rolling shot go just wide of the far post.
Then in the 58th minute, it was Messi’s turn again. Dani Alves fed Messi who broke in on goal and beat the keeper with a flick of his foot, the ball trickling calmly through the goalmouth and just inside the left post. It was a goal that he’s scored so many times before, and this one put Barça up 3-0, virtually sealing the victory for his side.
Still with a half-hour to play, Messi looked hungry to get his second straight hat trick. A pair of Barça attacks came up empty before Rafinha committed a dangerous foul on a rare Apoel counterattack in the 70th minute.
Chasing the play near midfield, he took down an Apoel attacker from behind and was immediately shown his second yellow card of the evening. Barça would have to play out the clock a man down.
A level field
However, with just six minutes left, Apoel had Joao Guilherme sent off as well for his second yellow of the game. The sides were again at even strength and there was just enough time left for Barça to add to their tally.
In the 87th minute, with Barça still pushing, a pass came into the area in the direction of Messi, standing three metres from the goal. He knew he was offside and let the ball roll past. Pedro came rushing in and saved it before going over the end line.
The Apoel defenders had given up on the play, but Pedro managed to get the ball back to Messi, now onside. The man of the match one-timed into the open net to complete his second hat trick in four days and send Barça back home riding high.
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