Barcelona v Chelsea: 'Joyous' Lionel Messi joins the Champions League 100 club

From BBC - March 14, 2018

Lionel Messi seems to reach a milestone or set a record every time he plays. Against Chelsea on Wednesday, there were two.

First, he registered his fastest goal in the Champions League by netting after two minutes eight seconds from a narrow angle, and later he reached 100 goals in the competition with a blistering low strike which went - as did his first - straight through the legs of Blues keeper Thibaut Courtois.

He is only the second player to reach a century of goals in Europe's premier club competition, joining his great rival at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, in the 100 club.

Ronaldo's tally stands at 117 in 148 games. Messi's 100 has come up in 123.

The next man on the list - former Real Madrid forward Raul - has 71 goals. Of those still playing on the list of most Champions League goals, Karim Benzema is closest to Messi and Ronaldo with 53.

Magical Messi does it again

Messi offers more than just goals.

The Argentine maestro, who is enjoying arguably the best season of his stunning career, also stepped up to deliver an astonishing assist by robbing Cesc Fabregas on the halfway line, beating two men and squaring an astute pass perfectly into the path of Ousmane Dembele for the second goal.

Messi's genius cannot be measured by facts and stats. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte called him "extraordinary" and former Barca striker Gary Lineker tweeted that Messi was "joyous", which is a good way of describing a player who seems to perform for the pure love of the game and always finds new ways to astonish.

Some of Messi's close control and dribbling was breathtaking, drawing gasps of delight from the home crowd, and with three goals and that wondrous assist over the course of the two legs of the Chelsea tie it's very easy to conclude he was the difference between the teams.

And he's not finished yet. Messi is an arch-competitor and is gunning for his fifth Champions League title after seeing bitter rivals Real Madrid take the crown for the past two seasons.

When Pep Guardiola was asked recently whether his high-flying Manchester City team should be regarded as favourites for the Champions League, he had a simple answer. "Who does Messi play for? They are the favourites." The former Barcelona boss should know. And he has a point, does not he?

Dembele's turning point?

Though Messi will rightly claim the lion's share of the headlines, perhaps the most significant moment in the game from the home team's perspective was Dembele's thumping finish from Messi's assist - his first goal in Barca colours.

Dembele has had a tough first season at the Nou Camp following his 105m euro (96.8m) summer move from Borussia Dortmund, missing more than three months through injury and often looking out of place in his few outings since he regained fitness.

His selection in the starting XI was a surprise after he was left on the bench for the first leg, but the flamboyant manner in which he took his goal, firing a fierce rising drive into the roof of the net, showed exactly how important he could become to this team.

There's no doubt about Dembele's talent, and his ability to take on defenders and penetrate into the area gives the team an important degree of attacking variety they otherwise lack - as seen during the meeting at Stamford Bridge, when Barca were lucky to escape with a draw after creating very few chances.

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