Lionel Messi scores twice as Barcelona dominates Juventus
Between last season’s quarterfinal defeat and the loss of Neymar over the summer, Barcelona was hardly a big favorite entering Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League group stage opener against Juventus. But Lionel Messi was at his absolute best, scoring two goals and setting up another in an emphatic 3-0 victory.
Juve actually got off to a solid start, forcing Marc-Andre ter Stegen into three saves in the opening 15 minutes. But he was up to the task, making stops on Mattia De Sciglio, Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic.
Luis Suarez nearly scored a stunner in the 19th minute, but was denied by Gianluigi Buffon. After Messi sent a free kick into the wall, Suarez smashed a rocket towards goal from 20 yards, but the legendary Juventus goalkeeper tipped it over the bar comfortably.
For the opening half-hour, Juventus’ defense was in control and limiting Barcelona’s chances, but the game changed when Mattia De Sciglio was injured in the 33rd minute. He made some errors while trying to play on, then was eventually replaced by midfielder Stefano Sturaro, who had to try and fill in at right back.
Barcelona took the lead just before halftime, capitalizing on 15 minutes of sustained pressure. Messi was the scorer, applying a perfect finish after a one-two exchange with Suarez on top of the box.
Barca took control after halftime as well, with Messi dominating from the whistle to the end of the match. He hit the post in the 52nd minute and Buffon was extremely lucky not to concede an own goal after the ball rebounded off his back, then narrowly missed rolling into the back of the net. But his luck wouldn’t last much longer, with the Blaugrana solidifying their lead in the 56th minute. Messi set up the goal with a burst into the box and square ball that Juventus cleared, but only as far as goal-scorer Ivan Rakitic, who made it 2-0.