Lionel Messi always a privilege to be in his presence, of course, but boy does he ruin the night for those who dare to dream on visiting Nou Camp. Liverpool was doing well when he scored Barcelona’s second. And not just comparatively well, either.
Not just well by comparison to Manchester United, who were outplayed and chastened here last month. Genuinely well. Well enough to be level. They’d had several good scoring chances. One fell to James Milner from 12 yards. You always fancy Milner from 12 yards. He shot straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal.
And then, the first time Barcelona had really threatened Liverpool since opening the scoring in the 26th minute, Messi made it 2-0 now and the task grew so much harder. Then he scored a third, with a free-kick with eight minutes before them – and, well impossible’s a big word. Let’s just say it’s hard now. Really really really really really hard.
Credit Sergio Busquets, too, with alighting on the tactic that would change the game. It was – wait for it – give it to Messi. When he picked up the ball midway in Liverpool’s half he had a lot of team-mates calling for it in positions that were easier to hit. But none of them were Messi. So Busquets looked up, saw where Messi was, and hit him instead. It was a tough, eye of the needle pass, but worth every inch of the effort.
Messi turned and ran with a posse of Liverpool players in pursuit, and gave the ball to Sergi Roberto. He could do nothing with it, but Luis Suarez could – hitting the bar with his shot. Guess who it fell to? And Messi just carried on his run, with the ball at his feet, almost to the empty net.
The frustration of goalkeeper Alisson, as he kicked it in the aftermath, even harder than the scorer, summed up Liverpool’s disappointment. They did not deserve that.