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2009/10 FC Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal FC: Report

"Messi is like a PlayStation player. He can punish any mistake, make a difference at any moment." Arsène Wenger

2009/10 FC Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal FC: Report
2009/10 FC Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal FC: Report ©UEFA.com

Unexpectedly behind in the tie and with the expectations of the Camp Nou faithful resting on their shoulders, even European heavyweights FC Barcelona needed a saviour. Four Lionel Messi goals later, Arsenal FC did not know what had hit them.

Though it was Arsenal who were knocked out come the end of the tie, reigning champions Barcelona had themselves been left punch-drunk after the quarter-final first leg. Two Zlatan Ibrahimović goals to the good, Josep Guardiola's side were pegged back in north London and Arsenal took the aggregate lead early on in Spain.

Messi had already fired two warning shots across Manuel Almunia's bows by the time Nicklas Bendtner – needing two bites at the cherry – bundled in the rampaging Theo Walcott's square pass. Even the peerless Messi needed a similar slice of fortune three minutes later, latching on to a series of ricochets off his own pass and emphatically firing beyond Manuel Almunia.

Though Pedro Rodríguez was the instigator for the Azulgrana's opener, he could claim full credit for the assist for Messi's second. Dazed and confused, the Gunners could only partially clear Éric Abidal's cross, allowing Pedro to flick into the Argentina striker's path with only Almunia to beat. He did so with inimitable ease.

Barça smelt blood and their talisman sniffed his fourth hat-trick of 2010. If it was the first of a lifetime it could scarcely have received a more fitting coup de grace, Messi racing on to Seydou Keita's perceptive header and applying the most impudent of chipped finishes over Almunia.

Stranded between taking their medicine and going for an unlikely comeback, there was no second-half Arsenal rally – it was already game, set and match for the hosts.

Messi, though, added the encore to his one-man show two minutes from time. Having shrugged off Emmanuel Eboué and Thomas Vermaelen, the 23-year-old rifled a shot through Almunia's legs at the second attempt to become only the sixth player in UEFA Champions League history to score four in a single game.