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Messi leads Barcelona to 4-0 rout over Bayern

LIONEL Messi scored two goals and set up another as Barcelona routed Bayern Munich 4-0 yesterday in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.

Bayern had no response to Barcelona's unrelenting offensive rushes and particularly to Messi, who took his season tally to 32 goals in all competitions. The win puts Barcelona on the verge of returning to the semifinals for the second straight year.

Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry also scored for the Spanish leaders, with all goals coming in the first half. Messi also had a penalty appeal waived away in the 19th minute, and Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was sent to the stands for protesting.

Barcelona's victory at the Camp Nou sets up a potential matchup with Chelsea in the semifinals, after the Blues beat Liverpool 3-1 yesterday.

"We had a very good performance but it's only the first game of the quarters," Guardiola said. "We'll try to reach the semifinals and then we'll decide what we're going to do. We're still not in the semifinals yet."

Bayern, coming off a 5-1 league loss on Saturday, looked lost as Barcelona's high-powered offense swarmed the German area from the opening moments.

Even with the return leg awaiting at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann said the team would look to the league for relief.

"The only way to get the team back on track is to focus on the Bundesliga now," the German coach said. "A defeat like that is hard to digest."

Messi opened the scoring in the ninth minute after Samuel Eto'o drew two defenders before slipping the ball into the area for the Argentina winger, who coolly rolled it past goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt and inside the far post.

Messi turned provider to Eto'o in a near identical buildup in the 13th. After anticipating Eto'o's run perfectly, Messi slid a quick pass into the area for the Cameroon striker to shoot through Butt's legs.

Referee Howard Webb drew Guardiola's ire after waiving away a penalty appeal when Christian Lell barged into Messi as he moved around the Bayern defender in the area. Messi was also booked for questioning the decision.

"I wasn't able to control myself, I'm like that. The penalty was clear," Guardiola said. "What bothers me more is (Messi's) card."

Moments later, Henry caught Butt under the right eye with his boots after sliding into the goalkeeper, and the break for medical treatment offered Bayern a break from the Barcelona onslaught.

"Our midfield got out well and moved the ball around efficiently and quickly and that is the best way to defend," Guardiola said. "In general we allowed them little room to breathe."

Lell was filling in for injured left back Phillip Lahm and had the task of marking Messi, but couldn't prevent him from sliding in to redirect Henry's pass into the net from close range in the 38th for his eighth goal in the competition.

Messi then came charging across the area in the 43rd before laying the ball off to Eto'o, who was swarmed by white shirts. But the ball popped out to Henry, who rolled it past a helpless Butt for the fourth.

Messi, Eto'o and Henry have combined for 89 of Barcelona's 126 goals scored this season.

Klinsmann opted for the 34-year-old Butt over regular keeper Michael Rensing, despite having only played once all season. But the veteran could hardly be faulted as Barcelona's attack repeatedly broke down Bayern's defense, which was also without regulars Daniel van Buyten and Lucio.

Bayern striker Luca Toni was neutralized throughout, with his best touch coming in the 45th when the Italy striker played Franck Ribery clear along the left, but the France winger sliced wide.

Butt finally got a chance to show off his skill in the 59th when he dove to tip away Messi's drive from the right. Andres Iniesta also had a good chance late as Barcelona managed 19 shots.

Carles Puyol deflect Ze Roberto's shot out in the 71st as Barcelona kept a clean sheet at home for the first time this season in the competition.

The Camp Nou hasn't been kind to Bayern, with the Germans allowing two injury-time goals to lose the 1999 Champions League final to Manchester United here. Yesterday's result matched the club's third-worst away defeat in UEFA competitions, and Bayern now looks set to see be eliminated in the quarterfinals for the fourth straight time.

"It shows that we've still got a lot of work to do to be in the top four in Europe," Klinsmann said.


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