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Champions League

Messi treble gives Guardiola nightmares on Barca return

Lionel Messi was at his brilliant best, scoring a hat-trick

Lionel Messi scored his second hat-trick in as many Champions League games to give Barcelona a 4-0 win over Manchester City as Pep Guardiola and Claudio Bravo endured harrowing returns to the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

A slip by Fernandinho allowed Messi to round former team-mate Bravo and open the scoring in the 17th minute and the keeper completed a miserable night by getting sent off in the second half for handling outside the area after losing the ball.

The magical Messi hammered in his second from the edge of the area after turning two City defenders and pounced on a Luis Suarez lay-off to complete his treble in the 69th minute.

Barca substitute Jeremy Mathieu was then dismissed for two bookable offences. Neymar had a late penalty saved by substitute Willy Caballero but the Brazilian made amends by scoring the fourth goal in the 89th minute.

Luis Enrique’s team lead the group with nine points from three matches followed by Guardiola’s City on four. Borussia Monchengladbach have three points while Celtic are bottom with one.

City, who surprisingly omitted attacking linchpin Sergio Aguero, played an aggressive pressing game and had Barca pinned in their own half for the opening quarter of an hour but Fernandinho’s error and Messi’s determination changed the course of events.

Messi began the move and fought to win the ball back before threading a pass to Andres Iniesta. Fernandinho tripped over just as he looked set to clear, leaving the Argentine an easy task to score.

City did not wilt and Spaniard Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan saw shots saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen while Suarez was denied by Bravo and also shot wide.

The visitors then collapsed after the break, their downfall starting when Bravo came out of his area and lost the ball to Suarez before using his hands to stop the Uruguayan’s attempted chip.

The Chile international had his name sarcastically chanted by his former supporters and Barca, with a man advantage, turned on the style.

Messi’s second strike was reminiscent of a goal he scored against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the 2015 semi-finals and Suarez’s generosity allowed the Argentine to knock in the third with simplicity.

City defender Aleksandar Kolarov found the only way to stop Messi was to trip him in the area.

Caballero thwarted Neymar from the penalty spot but the Brazilian heaped more pain on Barca’s most decorated coach Guardiola by scoring the fourth.

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