Lionel Messi scored twice to put Barcelona in control of their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, winning 3-0 in the first leg at the Nou Camp.
It was former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez who put the hosts ahead in the 26th minute, flicking a lovely Jordi Alba cross home home over Alisson and the 32-year-old did not hide his celebrations.
Barcelona rode the wave of Liverpool pressure at the start of the second half and Messi (75) was in the right place at the right time as he slotted home after Suarez had hit the bar.
But his real moment of magic came seven minutes later as he swept a sensational free-kick around the Liverpool wall and into the top corner, scoring his 600th goal for the club and putting Barcelona in pole position to reach their first Champions League final since 2015.
It was an entertaining first half, with Philippe Coutinho attempting to strike an early blow to his former side, but his 16th minute strike – which was offside – went whistling past Alisson’s far post.
For all the pre-match questions on Liverpool’s formation, it was thrown slightly into disarray as Keita picked up a groin issue following a clash with Ivan Rakitic. He was replaced after 24 minutes by Jordan Henderson, and two minutes later, a familiar face came back to haunt Liverpool.
A sensational cross from Jordi Alba on the left picked out the run of Suarez through the middle of the two centre-backs. He then flicked the ball over the top of Alisson with a delightful finish before celebrating his first Champions League goal of the season with a knee slide in front of the Nou Camp crowd.
Barcelona made three changes with Sergi Roberto, Sergio Buquets and Lionel Messi coming in for Nelson Semedo, Arthur Melo and Osumane Dembele. In terms of Liverpool team changes , Jurgen Klopp made four from the weekend’s win against Huddersfield. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge being replaced by Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Fabinho and James Milner.
Liverpool should have equalised in the 35th minute when Henderson slotted a ball in behind Pique, picking out the advancing Mane. He only had the goalkeeper to beat from 15 yards, but could only send his effort flying over the crossbar.
Liverpool started the second half on the front foot as they searched for the all-important away goal and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was called into action. He denied Milner twice – once with a curling effort and the second a fierce drive into his hands – and got down low to keep out a Mohamed Salah effort in between.
But for all of Liverpool’s possession and pressure in the second period, it was Barcelona who doubled their lead in the 75th minute. Suarez’s initial effort hammered against the crossbar but Messi was waiting to roll the rebounded ball home with Alisson well off his line.
It was a moment of sheer class from Messi in the 82nd minute as he netted Barcelona’s third and bought up his 600th goal for the club. He lined up a free-kick from 25 yards out after a foul from Fabinho on the Argentine and he got the delivery inch-perfect as he curled the ball around the Liverpool wall and into the top corner.
Liverpool gave their hosts a scare not long after, though, as Firmino raced down the field, getting a pass around Ter Stegen, but his shot was cleared off the line by Gerard Pique. Salah was waiting with a tap-in from eight yards, but he could only find the post as Barcelona saw out their victory.
Liverpool suffered their joint-heaviest Champions League defeat, also losing 0-3 to Real Madrid in October 2014.
Barcelona’s Luis Suárez scored his first Champions League goal of the season, with his 36th shot of the campaign; his previous goal in the competition was in April 2018 against Roma, whose goalkeeper that day was Alisson.
Liverpool have now lost more matches in the Champions League this season (4 in 11 matches) than in all other competitions combined (3 in 38 matches).
In the top five European leagues in all competitions, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored eight direct free-kick goals this season – twice as many as any other player.
Man of the match – Lionel Messi
Could it be anyone else? Once again, Messi pulls his team towards glory and his free-kick was nothing short of masterful. It was his 600th for Barcelona – 14 years to the day since his first senior goal – and they Catalan side look unstoppable with him on the field.
Our man in Spain, Michael Hincks, adds: “He looked in the mood from the get go, at times dribbling past Liverpool players for fun, and as the visitors pressed in the second half, it was Messi who delivered the double blow, reacting quickest when Suarez’s effort hit the bar before scoring a vintage free-kick.”
Barcelona travel to Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday before Tuesday’s second leg at Anfield. Liverpool play Newcastle live on Sky Sports Premier League on Saturday evening (kick-off at 7.45pm) before their home fixture. (Skysport)