• Lionel Messi nets his 72nd, 73rd and 74th UEFA Champions League goals at APOEL
• Luis Suárez gives the visitors the lead with his first strike for Barcelona
• Xavi Hernández comes off the bench for a record 145th appearance in the competition
• Rafinha and João Guilherme are sent off in the second half
• Next games: Ajax v APOEL, Barcelona v Paris (10 December)
Three days after rewriting the record books as the Spanish Liga's all-time leading scorer, Lionel Messi made history in the UEFA Champions League too. The FC Barcelona talisman scored a Group F hat-trick against APOEL FC in Nicosia to make his own the record of most UEFA Champions League goals he had hitherto shared with Raúl González on 71 strikes.
His first of the evening – the record-breaker – was not a typical Messi effort. Rafinha fired a low shot from the edge of APOEL's area which the Argentinian, stretching out his right foot, deflected to send past goalkeeper Urko Pardo and double the lead given the visitors by Luis Suárez. If anything, it was a Raúl-like goal which had enabled Messi to surpass the player who was previously this competition's foremost marksman.
Early in the second half, the Barcelona No10 added his second. Collecting a great through ball by Daniel Alves, he sprang the offside trap and clipped past Pardo for goal No73 at this level. In truth, the Blaugrana captain and his team had been in charge since the first whistle, aiming for a quick goal that would define the complexion of the game. Messi came close early on, but his old team-mate at La Masia, Urko Pardo, blocked the attempt.
Luis Enrique's men had their foot on the throttle, keeping Pardo busy. He intervened to deny Suárez and then saw Jordi Alba miss a glorious chance from a delightful Messi pass. But APOEL's luck ran out in the 27th minute. Suárez took the ball, turned a defender and beat Pardo with a neat finish to open his Barcelona account. He might have repeated the trick before half-time, yet somehow fluffed his lines. Pedro Rodríguez also threatened after a mesmerising run by Messi, but the former's strike went just wide of Pardo's post.
If APOEL were too busy defending in the first period, they came out after the interval determined to give their fans something to cheer. After conceding the third goal they grew more adventurous and started getting around Marc-André ter Stegen's box. The keeper was forced into a brilliant stop in the 66th minute to repel substitute Tomás De Vincenti powerful drive.
The later exchanges were enlivened by the entrance of Xavi Hernández for his 145th UEFA Champions League outing, a competition record that can be equalled tomorrow by Iker Casillas. Then Rafinha and João Guilherme each saw red after a second yellow card. The final word, though, went to Messi who completed his treble with three minutes to play.
Barcelona, in second, next face Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou in a first-place showdown, while APOEL must win in Amsterdam to pip AFC Ajax to the UEFA Europa League spot.
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