Messi fires Barca into semis

Scores twice to beat Manchester United 3-0

Barcelona, April 17 

Lionel Messi produced another masterful Champions League performance to knock out Manchester United and fire Barcelona into the semifinals for the first time in four years, scoring twice in a 3-0 home win on Tuesday.

Barca, who toyed with United for the majority of the encounter, sealed a 4-0 aggregate victory and will meet either Porto or Liverpool in the last four.

Messi had failed to score in his last 12 quarterfinal appearances, but he settled his side’s nerves after a bright start from United, collecting a misplaced pass from Ashley Young and curling into the bottom corner in the 16th minute.

The Argentine then pounced on another lapse from United’s defence four minutes later to win back possession high up the pitch and fire a shot from outside the box, which squirmed under visiting keeper David de Gea.

Philippe Coutinho finished off a therapeutic win for the Catalans, after three quarterfinal failures in a row, by curling into the top corner in the second half.

United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s greatest night as a player came at the Nou Camp, but after losing the first leg at Old Trafford 1-0, his team needed to become the first side to win a European game there in 31 matches in order to progress.

They clung to the hope of another famous European escape act after last month’s miraculous 3-1 win at Paris St Germain and made a strong start as Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar in the opening stages.

They also survived a scare when a penalty awarded to Barca for an apparent foul by Fred on Ivan Rakitic was overturned after a VAR review.

Yet their hopes were soon extinguished when Young was caught in possession on the left wing and Messi seized the ball, scurrying across the pitch and holding off more United defenders before bending a superb shot past the outstretched De Gea.

The Spanish goalkeeper was left embarrassed for Messi’s second goal as the Argentine’s tame shot crept under his body.

United looked down and out and Messi nearly dealt them further pain before halftime by sparking another quick break, but this time De Gea thwarted the Catalans, pushing away Sergi Roberto’s shot on the goalline.

De Gea was taunted by Barca fans in the second half, which turned into a procession for the home side and the out-of-form Coutinho turned up the party atmosphere with his sensational strike.

The nearest United came to finding the target after the break came when Barca keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen turned an Alexis Sanchez header around the post late on. — Reuters

Ajax eliminate Ronaldo’s Juve 

Turin: Ajax Amsterdam produced a spell-binding display of inventive, passing football to win 2-1 away to Juventus and end the Serie A team’s dreams of winning the Champions League. Ajax’s 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt headed the winner from the corner in the 67th minute of the quarterfinal second leg as the Dutch side came from behind to clinch a 3-2 aggregate win and reach the last-four for the first time since 1996/97.

Ronaldo (in pic), aiming for a fourth successive Champions League title after winning the last three with Real Madrid, put Juventus ahead in the 28th minute with a typically emphatic header, his sixth goal of the competition.

But Donny van de Beek levelled six minutes later before the visitors swept Juventus aside in the second half with wave after wave of fluid attacks to follow up their elimination of Real Madrid in the previous round. Reuters

Messi, Ronaldo show proves costly for Kenya cops  

Nairobi: The temptation to watch UEFA Champions League quarterfinals football on TV both featuring Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo backfired for some Kenya policemen when thieves raided their unmanned post and made off with weaponry. The incident occurred on Tuesday night after the officers shut down the Kamorwon police post in a western region of Kenya and went in search of a TV screen. As they watched two matches --- Manchester United against Barcelona and Juventus against Ajax --- on TV at a nearby shopping mall, thieves raided the post and escaped with three rifles and ammunition. Reuters

Messi urges Barca to show more focus upfront  

Barcelona: There was a huge sense of relief in Barcelona after brushing aside their recent Champions League quarterfinal failures by beating Manchester United, but Lionel Messi still criticised his side’s shaky start to the game. “We cannot start like this in any Champions League game,” Messi told reporters. 

Barca had suffered a humiliating quarterfinal exit at AS Roma last year after conceding early goals and Messi urged his teammates to show more concentration in their next European outing. “We said that from the start, we had the experience of Roma, you can’t afford to make life hard for yourself because one mistake can knock you out of this competition. We have to be aware of that.” 

Barca have not won Europe’s biggest prize since 2015 despite dominating the domestic scene in Spain and have had to look on enviously as arch-rivals Real Madrid romped to three consecutive Champions League triumphs. “We had been three years without making the semifinals, but we didn’t have any negative feelings. We knew we had a good scoreline, we’re happy to be in the semis, but we must continue,” he said. Reuters  

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