Messi matches goal record as Barcelona advance

AFC Ajax 0-2 FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi struck twice to take his tally to a record-equalling 71 UEFA Champions League goals as Barcelona booked a last-16 spot.

Lionel Messi told UEFA.com that it was "very hard to pick" a favourite after he equalled the record for UEFA Champions League goals in FC Barcelona's win against AFC Ajax.

Barcelona seal top-two spot in Group F along with Paris; Ajax are out
Lionel Messi equals Raúl González's record of 71 UEFA Champions League goals
Joël Veltman sent off midway through second half, just after Arkadiusz Milik hits post
Exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the Amsterdam ArenA
Next games: Paris v Ajax, APOEL v Barcelona (25 November)

Lionel Messi scored in each half to take his tally to a record-equalling 71 UEFA Champions League goals as FC Barcelona booked a last-16 spot, knocking out AFC Ajax in the process.

Messi broke the deadlock nine minutes before the interval with only his fourth headed goal in the competition and aside from a brief rally around the hour, victory was never really in doubt. The Argentinian made sure 14 minutes from time after Joël Veltman saw red, moving him alongside Raúl González as the UEFA Champions League's all-time leading marksman.

Ajax had coped well in the first 15 minutes against an initially disjointed Barcelona and created the first real openings as Lucas Andersen and Lasse Schöne tried their luck from distance. Frank de Boer's men continued to press, only a series of last-ditch blocks preventing more danger. Davy Klaassen's low shot brought a fine save from Marc-André ter Stegen.

Lionel Messi after scoring goal No71 in the competition
Lionel Messi after scoring goal No71 in the competition©AFP/Getty Images

The Liga giants were finally galvanised into action, and it was that man Messi who caused the danger, sending Jordi Alba through with a delightful ball. Jasper Cillessen did well to repel with his legs. Back the visitors came, Cillessen parrying a Messi free-kick, yet he lost an ensuing aerial duel with Marc Bartra and the defender's looping cross was nodded in by Messi.

Only the width of a post denied Neymar minutes after the restart as he let fly with a powerful left-foot volley having linked up well with Luis Suárez. It was a different Blaugrana in the second half, playing on the front foot and finding each other with their famed short passing. Messi released Suárez with an ingenious reverse ball but the Ajax old boy shot too close to Cillessen.

Ajax were not done, and came agonisingly close to an equaliser when Thulani Serero curled in a cross which substitute Arkadiusz Milik headed against the outside of Ter Stegen's left post. The game was up when Veltman received a second yellow card for bringing down Messi, though, and the hosts' misery was compounded as Barça's No10 exchanged passes with Pedro Rodríguez and prodded in.

Raúl's record is now his for the taking; for Ajax there is a UEFA Europa League spot up for grabs.

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