Barcelona v Liverpool was closer than the 3-0 score suggests

Barcelona 3 Liverpool 0

Suarez 26 Messi 77 Messi 82
—————————————

Lionel Messi scored two goals last night.

The first was an easy header after a Luis Suarez shot came back off the crossbar. His second was a phenomenal free-kick over the wall from 28 yards.

Messi had scored twice against Manchester United but I thought Liverpool might contain Messi better than United did.

Before the game I wrote that Sadio Mane is the new Luis Suarez. Not yet he isn’t.

When zippy left back Jordi Alba fizzed a cross towards the near post, Suarez produced a sensational short spurt and finish to make it 1-0.

I realised: Sadio Mane could not have scored that goal.
Klopp had gambled by playing midfielder Wijnaldum in the Firmino role and that didn’t work.There’s only one Firmino and Salah & Mane are not so penetrating without the Brazilian’s ferocious pressing.

At half-time I was wondering about a bet in play. I hadn’t had one before the game and decided to bet Barcelona to win the Champions League.

But I backed Barcelona Next Goal.

Early in the second half, the game was finely balanced and Tet Stegen made a save from Milner. If Liverpool equalise, I’ll be pleased but I’ll lose my bet.If it stays 1-0, I’ll lose.

The ref has allowed some very fierce challenges by both teams.
When Salah hit a scorching shot from outside the D, Ter Stegen made a terrific diving save to concede a corner. Then Vidal fouled Mane and by 58 Liverpool were dominating and coach Valverde responded by bringing on right back Nelson Somedo for Coutinho and pushing Sergio Roberto into midfield and going to a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Milner shot straight at the keeper, then Virgil van Dijk fired a 70-yard pass to Salah.

Liverpool had dominated from 45 to 66 minutes but Barca know just enough and do just enough.

By the time Firmino came on for Wijnaldum in 71, I reckoned Liverpool could play till midnight without scoring.

Then Suarez hit the bar and the ball rebounded for Messi to nod home.

Barcelona 2 Liverpool 0.

My reaction to that was: Barcelona didn’t dominate and didn’t need to because they know how to navigate through the currents and storms within a match.

In 81 Fabinho blocked Messi and got booked and Suarez said something and he was booked as well.

A free-kick will be taken and it’s a good wall of tall defenders and when Messi hits the shot the wall jumps and ball goes over Gomez and into the top corner.

That was Messi’s 600th goal for Barcelona and his 47th goal from a free-kick.

His first was in 2005 and I remember his debut as a long-haired teenager. He came on as sub on the right side.

VERDICT : I’ll watch the second leg, of course, but my gut feeling is that the Champions |League is done and dusted. Messi will win it.

PS.  Apologies for earlier errors & typos as I rushed out at 10.45 this morning