Messi destroys Arsenal
Barcelona winger Lionel Messi hit four goals past Arsenal as the holders stormed into the Champions League semi-finals and a meeting with Inter Milan after the Italian champions ousted CSKA Moscow yesterday.
While Inter's 2-0 aggregate victory over CSKA clinched a first semi-final appearance in seven years, Barcelona are in the last four for the third consecutive season.
"I would have preferred to have another rival - another opponent," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "But this is the team we play."
Barcelona had been stunned by injury-depleted Arsenal in the 19th minute at the Nou Camp when Nicklas Bendtner gave the English Premier League title contender a 3-2 aggregate lead.
But Messi responded with a hat-trick before half-time and a fourth in the closing minutes to send Barcelona through 6-3 on aggregate.
"He's the best player I've ever faced and he's the best player in the world," Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said. "It's very difficult to stop someone who has so many skills like that, who can do whatever they want with the ball."
Arsenal had started out more positively than at Emirates Stadium last week when their goal was blitzed by Barcelona, although the first leg ended 2-2.
"We lost against a team that is better than us and have the best player in the world," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Barcelona's next obstacle in their bid to become the first team to defend the European Cup since AC Milan in 1990, is a familiar face: Jose Mourinho.
But Mourinho's Inter side couldn't match Barcelona's ruthless display as they produced a more mundane victory in Moscow.
Already leading 1-0 from the first leg, Wesley Sneijder doubled Inter's advantage in the sixth by firing a low free kick through the wall which glanced off CSKA midfielder Keisuke Honda and beat goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeyev.
"True, maybe it wasn't the most exciting game, but the real prize was reaching the semi-finals," Mourinho said. "There were 500 Inter fans here in Moscow and our job was to make the semi-finals, not put on a show, and that's what we did."
Today, Manchester United, which lost to Barcelona in last season's final, are trying to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Bayern Munich, while Lyon take a 3-1 advantage to Bordeaux in an all-French quarter-final.