Arsenal spellbound by Messi's four-goal magic

Camp Nou, Barcelona – 06/04/2010 – Quarter-finals
Barcelona
Barcelona
Messi 21, 37, 42, 88
4 - 1
Arsenal
  • Bendtner 18
Arsenal
Touch of genius

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

2009/10

• Diego Milito became the fifth player to find the net twice in a UEFA Champions League final, scoring both goals in FC Internazionale Milano's 2-0 victory against FC Bayern München in Madrid.

• Maccabi Haifa FC became only the second side – after RC Deportivo La Coruña in 2004/05 – to fail to score in the group stage. The Israeli champions were eliminated without registering a point.

• Lionel Messi became the sixth player to find the net four times in a UEFA Champions League game when he scored all the goals in FC Barcelona's 4-1 win against Arsenal FC in the quarter-finals.

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.

Star players

  • Xavi Hernández

    An understated one-club man, Xavi established himself as a classy midfield linchpin for FC Barcelona and Spain while allowing those around him to take the limelight with his composure, exquisite technique and killer distribution. He has helped Barça to six Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues, picking up a record number of appearances in the process, while triumphing with Spain at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

  • Daniel Alves

    Having won two UEFA Cups and a UEFA Super Cup, Alves joined FC Barcelona in summer 2008 for a fee of around €35m. After one barren season at the Camp Nou, this archetypal Brazilian full-back enjoyed trophy-laden 2008/09 campaign, adding the Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League to his CV. Alves added another Spanish top-flight title and a further UEFA Super Cup the following season.

  • Messi

    Reared at FC Barcelona, Messi made his Liga debut aged 17 years and 114 days, and went on to become arguably the most gifted footballer of his generation. The diminutive forward needed only 153 games to reach 100 Liga goals for Barça. Twice winner of the Ballon d'Or, he has three UEFA Champions Leagues to his name and became the first player to finish top scorer in the competition in three successive campaigns in 2010/11.

What happened next?

• FC Barcelona's tilt at becoming the first team to defend their UEFA Champions League crown ended with a 3-2 aggregate defeat by eventual winners FC Internazionale Milano in the semi-finals.

• Josep Guardiola's team did retain their Spanish Liga title, however, losing just one top-flight game all season to record a record 99 points. Real Madrid CF finished just three points behind in second.

• Arsenal FC, meanwhile, failed to add to their trophy cabinet for the fifth successive campaign, finishing third in the Premier League, 11 points behind champions Chelsea FC.

• Lionel Messi, the star of the show at the Camp Nou against Arsenal, was the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League top scorer with eight goals and later won the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or.

• The following season, in the round of 16, Messi scored twice at the Camp Nou as Barcelona overturned a 2-1 deficit from the first leg to defeat Arsenal 4-3 on aggregate.

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