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Although it’s still only October, a 4-0 defeat of a fellow title candidate sends a very clear message out to Europe. The Bravo sending off was a game-changer, after which a tight battle turned into a rout, but that should take nothing away from an exceptional performance by the Liga champions.
Messi quickest off the mark
The first quarter of an hour had been an evenly matched affair and a bravely positive Man City had managed to prevent Leo Messi from causing them any major trouble. But all the Argentinian needs is a flash to wield his magic, and no sooner had Fernandinho taken an unfortunate stumble than Messi was coolly stroking the ball home.
He made it look simple, but he did it surrounded by City defenders who were only just starting to react to their colleague’s error. Messi had already done his reacting.
Pep Guardiola will have his reasons, but plenty of eyebrows were raised when Messi’s international strike partner was left out of a Man City side that caused as much danger as their hosts in the first half but failed to convert.
Nolito, Gundogan and Stones all came within a whisker – but fans of both sides might ask how things could have differed had Sergio Agüero been out there from the start. However, others might argue that his absence had nothing to do with it – Ter Stegen wasn't letting anything get past him tonight! It was a great night for the Barça goalie.
Bravo makes early exit
Claudio Bravo was always going to be one of the talking points on his return to the Camp Nou, but his spectacular first half antics to deny Luis Suárez twice were overshadowed by the most bizarrely obvious of red card incidents early in the second.
The sending off obviously benefited Barça. With Zabaleta injured as part of the same move, City's hopes of a comeback were dashed in an instant. But even so there is a sense of pity that the Chilean’s homecoming had to end the way it did.
Pep may have words
From there, Messi went on to complete another UCL hat-trick. Guardiola knows more than anyone why they call him the greatest player in the world, but even so he will be furious with his players for the sloppy errors in the build-up to all three of those goals.
The ball was given away in acres of space to allow Messi’s left foot to make it 2-0, and the third was assisted by a Luis Suárez who had lapped up a back-pass that was going nowhere.
Messi is not only magical for what he does, but also for what he doesn’t do! Despite being brought down in the area after a dazzling solo run, and set to make it four goals on the night, he gave up the penalty opportunity to Neymar Jr.Whether that was because the Brazilian was celebrating his 150th appearance or because he’s about to sign a new contract on Friday, the spot kick ultimately went begging. Neymar would have understandably felt very awkward after squandering his team-mate's generous gift, but thankfully he didn't suffer for long. A minute later he made amends with a terrific finish. Four-nil. Three points. Happy days.
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