Superb Messi scores four to set up Inter date for Barcelona

April 7th, 2010 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Arsenal Berlin, April 7 (DPA) Lionel Messi produced a stellar performance in the Champions League, netting all four goals as Barcelona beat Arsenal 4-1 to set up a semi-final date against Inter Milan.
A goal from Wesley Schneider helped the Italian champions to a 1-0 victory away to CSKA Moscow to seal a 2-0 aggregate win and a place in the last four for the first time since 2003 when they were eliminated by city rivals AC Milan.

The night belonged Messi, who produced a sensational performance at the Camp Nou Tuesday.

Level at 2-2 from the first leg, Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal a shock lead after 18 minutes but Messi bagged three goals in 21 first-half minutes and a fourth in the last few minutes to seal a 6-3 aggregate triumph.

The first leg will be played in Milan on April 20, the second leg in Barcelona on April 28.

“I am very happy,” said modest Messi,” very pleased indeed.”

He added that “the important thing is that we have won again, after the match started badly. Now we must continue to work hard in the same way.”

When asked if he will score four in “El Clasico” against Real Madrid Saturday, Messi replied: “I hope so, but that will be very difficult.”

Messi is now the top scorer in this season’s tournament with eight goals, one more than Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, and his stellar performance also drew admiration from Arsenal’s Bendtner.

“If you are going to lose a game you want to lose by the other team playing you off the pitch,” Bendtner said.

“We tried as much as we could but they got the better of us and were the better side tonight.” (Messi) is a phenomenal player and he showed that again tonight.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had begged his side for a strong start and despite the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin and William Gallas, they did just that.

Barcelona’s makeshift defence - missing captain Carles Puyol - could not keep up with Theo Walcott and his centre found Bendtner who scored at the second attempt.

That put Arsenal ahead on aggregate but their lead lasted just two minutes as Messi made them pay for not clearing their lines with a brilliant left-foot strike.

On 37 minutes, Abidal broke down the left and though his cross hit the Arsenal defenders, it fell kindly for Pedro, who fed Messi, who took the ball round one marker and flicked the ball past Manuel Almunia.

And five minutes later, the game was as good as over as Messi broke the offside trap and then lifted a brilliant chip over Almunia to make it 3-1.

Bendtner headed a Gael Clichy cross onto the post in the second half but it would not have counted anyway as the Dane had strayed offside.

Barcelona brought on fit-again playmaker Andres Iniesta - to an enormous roar from the home fans - and it looked as if they would just coast through the remaining minutes.

But Messi had other ideas and after tricking his way through a series of challenges, saw his first effort well-saved by Almunia but then slammed the rebound through the goalkeeper’s legs for his fourth of the night.

Earlier in Moscow, Dutch forward Sneijder drilled home an early free-kick to ensure Inter’s progress.

CSKA’s chances of scoring the three goals they needed to qualify ended when Chidi Odiah was dismissed four minutes into the second half after picking up a second yellow card for a rough tackle on Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o.

The Champions League continues Wednesday when Manchester United take on Bayern Munich trailing 2-1 and Girondins Bordeaux look to overturn a 3-1 deficit at home to Olympique Lyon.

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