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Bayern Munich are dazzled by the brilliance of Lionel Messi

Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich

By Robert Jones

Lionel Messi's late brace ensured it was a miserable return to the Nou Camp for Pep Guardiola.

The former Barcelona boss, who won 14 titles in four years with the Catalan giants, saw the architect of so many of his greatest triumphs put him on the brink of a Champions League exit at the penultimate stage for the second successive year.

Going into the game, Guardiola admitted Messi was "just too good" to be stopped and so it proved as the Argentinian ace, who was quiet for long periods, burst into life to give Luis Enrique's side the advantage before Neymar twisted the knife to make it 3-0 at the death.

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano said afterwards: "We have Messi so it is an advantage for us. It was a very tight game but we had the best chances to score.

"We played the game that we wanted to play, we are very happy. We know it will be difficult in Germany, it is a good advantage but it is not finished. We must go with the same mentality.

"When you press high you take risks and we have a lot of people who can punish you. It is impossible to describe Messi."

Team-mate Gerard Pique added: "I think we played a sensational game. We were very good defensively. Bayern barely had a shot at goal in the 90 minutes.

"We made the most of their weak points. We are accustomed to not having the ball and we weren't uncomfortable without it."

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, however, refused to throw in the towel, saying: "We saw against Porto that something is always possible, but we're now playing against another team.

"We did not get many chances, but never say never. We must try to believe."

As Barca cut loose with blistering pace, power and skill it began to look like Guardiola's plans would blow up in his face and Rafinha had to be on hand to block what would have been a certain goal for Neymar at the far post in the 15th minute.

That seemed to be a wake-up call, with the visitors tightening up and reverting to a more familiar shape afterwards, and a masked Robert Lewandowski was inches away from giving them the lead shortly after.

Thomas Muller found space on the right and played it across the six-yard box for Lewandowski, but it was just out of reach.

Five minutes before the break, Neuer was once again at his best to deny Dani Alves with a point-blank block at the far post and somehow keep it goalless after a breathless 45 minutes.

Guardiola's side made a more assured start to the second half without crafting clear-cut chances, but Barca remained a constant threat.

Messi, who buzzed around the periphery of the game for large parts of the first half, unleashed a powerful drive from just outside the box, but Neuer gathered cleanly.

And the German then raced well off his line to thwart Neymar from a ball over the top.

But after a night of heroics from Neuer, Messi finally broke his resistance by catching him out at his near post 13 minutes from time.

The forward picked up the ball on the right, gave a trademark half-shimmy and then unleashed a rasping left-footed drive through a crowd of bodies. Neuer dived, but was unable to reach it.

Messi then left Jerome Boateng flat on the floor as he twisted and turned in the Bayern box before chipping home exquisitely for his 10th goal in 11 Champions League matches this season three minutes later.

The four-time Ballon d'Or winner slipped Neymar through one-on-one against Neuer at the death and the Brazilian remained cool to give Barca an even bigger advantage.

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano (Bartra 89), Alba, Rakitic (Xavi 82), Busquets,  niesta (Rafinha 87), Messi, Suárez, Neymar.

Goals: Messi 77, 80 Neymar 90

Bayern Municjh Neuer, Benatia, Boateng, Rafinha, Thiago, Lahm, Alonso, Bernat, Müller (Götze 79), Schweinsteiger, Lewandowski.

Man of match: Messi

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

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