Lionel Messi scores brace amid rash of goalscoring

AP

Thu, Nov 26, 2015 - Page 19

There were goals galore in the Champions League on Tuesday as Barcelona advanced to the knockout stage and also secured top spot in their group.

Barcelona had already qualified following BATE Borisov’s draw with Bayer 04 Leverkusen earlier, but they clinched top spot in Group E in style, hammering AS Roma 6-1 as Lionel Messi marked his return from injury with two goals.

“It’s tough to get back up to full speed,” Messi said. “I prepared well and trained, but it’s not the same as going out on the pitch and lasting 90 minutes. I will take it with calm and get my pace back.”

Messi’s efforts put the titleholders into the knockout round for a 12th consecutive season.

Messi showed no rust in his second appearance since recovering from a left-knee ligament he tore on Sept. 26 and scored Barcelona’s second and fifth goals of the one-sided match.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring at the Camp Nou in the 15th minute. Three minutes later Messi scored his first goal from Suarez’s pass.

Suarez and Gerard Pique added more goals before Messi struck again. Adriano capped the demolition after converting from the rebound following Neymar’s missed penalty.

“Messi is the best and I feel very happy for him for his goals and because he played the entire match,” Suarez said.

Edin Dzeko got Roma’s goal just before the final whistle.

Victory moved the Spanish club on to 13 points at the top of Group E with a game to spare.

Roma were left with five points along with Leverkusen, while BATE have four.

At the Borisov Arena, BATE’s Mikhail Gordeichuk’s took the lead in the second minute, only for Admir Mehmedi to equalize in the 68th.

Russia striker Artyom Dzyuba scored again as Zenit secured top spot in Group H by beating Valencia 2-0, while Gent KAA maintained their chances of qualifying after winning 2-1 against Olympique Lyonnais thanks to Kalifa Coulibaly’s injury-time winner.

Gent have seven points, one more than Valencia, and can guarantee qualification by beating Zenit at home on Dec. 9. Lyon’s one point sees them miss out on a Europa League berth.

Dzyuba’s 74th-minute goal, his fifth of the group stage, was a simple finish after a layoff from Hulk. Midfielder Oleg Shatov scored the opener.

Valencia finished with 10 men after defender Ruben Vezo was shown a straight red card in the 80th for slicing down Shatov.

“Apart from 10 minutes in the second half, we dominated completely,” Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas said.

Lyon failed to properly clear a corner and Coulibaly nodded home from close range to punish a lackluster Lyon side who led through midfielder Jordan Ferri’s seventh-minute goal.

The Belgian side equalized in the 32nd minute through Danijel Milicevic’s cleverly worked free-kick.

Before the match, Lyon fans held scarves aloft as they sang the French national anthem in honor of those killed in the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, which left 130 dead and hundreds more wounded.

With France under a state of emergency and Brussels staying on high alert over serious terror threats, no Gent fans were allowed in Lyon.