Messi sets record, Barcelona beats APOEL 4-0
Nicosia, Cyprus: Lionel Messi made a slice of European football history as the Barcelona striker hit a hat trick to become the Champions League's all-time top scorer in a 4-0 win over APOEL yesterday.
Three days after breaking a Spanish league record that had stood since 1955, Messi was again unstoppable.
"Messi is the best player of all time ... a player who will continue to surprise us for a long time to come," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.
The Argentine scored his first goal in the 38th minute of the Group F match after redirecting Brazilian midfielder Rafihna's shot from 20 yards out.
It was Messi's 72nd Champions League goal, beating the previous mark of 71 by former Real Madrid and Schalke striker Raul.
Messi scored again in the 58th after getting on the end of Daniel Alves' through ball to chip past APOEL goalkeeper Urko Pardo.
His third — and 74th overall — came three minutes before the end of regulation time when he tapped the ball home from point blank range after Pedro Rodriguez cut the ball back.
Uruguay's Luis Suarez scored Barcelona's other goal in the 27th when he eluded his marker with a clever pivot and curled the ball into the far corner for his first competitive goal for Barcelona.
Barcelona had kept APOEL on the back foot throughout the match.
Messi produced Barcelona's first good scoring chance just three minutes after the start when he latched onto a through pass and blasted a shot but APOEL goalkeeper Urko Parko was able to parry the ball.
A couple of minutes before halftime, Suarez just missed with a well-struck shot 20 yards (meters) out.
Barcelona again dominated after the interval. A backpass by Messi in the 73rd found a charging Suarez alone in the box, but Pardo did well to save the Uruguyan's low, hard shot.
APOEL's best chance came in the 66nd on a counterattack after Argentinian forward Tomas De Vincenti's shot from inside the box tested Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Barcelona was reduced to 10 players in the 70th when Rafinha was sent off for a second booking after a foul on De Vincenti. APOEL also finished the match with 10 players after defender Joao Guilherme was dismissed with a second yellow card.
APOEL coach George Donis wasn't surprised by the result.
"I consider this natural when facing a team like Barcelona to lose by such a wide margin," he said.