AS IF STRAIGHT from the set of a Hollywood blockbuster, Lionel Messi once again produced the unthinkable as he scored an impossible goal against Napoli, to send Barcelona into the Champions League quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate on Saturday.
The Spanish giants romped to a 3-1 victory on the night thanks to the solo effort of their captain, whose strike was wedged between goals each from defender Clément Lenglet and strike partner Luis Suárez and will now face Bayern Munich – who devastated Chelsea 4-1 (7-1 on aggregate) in their corresponding fixture on the night – in the last eight of the European competition.
In another stark display of his incomparable brilliance, Messi, losing his balance after being fed on the right flank, slalomed in between a series of challenges – five in total – but managed to rapidly jump back up on his feet before bending one into the far right corner of the opposition’s goal to make it 2-0 in the 23rd minute.
The Argentine superstar could have quite easily stayed down and appealed for a penalty but, instead, persisted in a way only he knew how en route to tucking away his 634th goal in 731 games for the Blaugrana. In the top UEFA Champions League scorers of all-time, Messi currently has 115 goals to his name (or foot) and counting.
The Blaugrana captain has now scored 27 goals in the Champions League round of 16 with Italian side Napoli accounting as his 35th opponent in Europe’s flagship club cup competition. The 33-year-old had a chance to extend his goal tally, on the night, after forcing Kalidou Koulibaly into clumsily fouling him inside the box just before the half-time break.
But in classic Messi fashion, the forward generously presented Suarez the chance to get on the scoresheet from the spot, which he did. The Uruguayan dispatched the penalty with aplomb to all but confirm his side’s place in the next round. Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne converted a spot-kick of his own right at the end, but it was not enough, as Barça claimed the plaudits across the two legs after playing out to a 1-all draw in the first leg encounter in February after the sides played out to a 1-all draw in the first leg encounter in February.