FC Barcelona have one foot in the UEFA Champions League Final after a convincing 3-0 victory over Liverpool at the Camp Nou overnight.
Lionel Messi’s second half double helped secure the result for the Blaugrana with his second being the pick of the bunch with a superbly hit free-kick in the dying embers of the contest to make it 600 goals for the club in the process.
The home side were on the complete offensive early and systematically broke down Liverpool’s sturdy defence with a beautiful cross field ball from Arturo Vidal finding Jordi Alba in a pocket of space who expertly found Luis Suarez to tuck home the opener.
Suarez, whose well timed strike against his former team meant he had finally opened up his Champions League account for the season after going goalless thus far in the opening rounds.
The Reds threatened to get back into proceedings as Sadio Mane latched on to a brilliant ball from substitute Jordan Henderson but was unable to guide his chance under the bar which would have been a fantastic response heading into the break.
Liverpool continued the offensive after the half-time interval with some nice combinations finding its way through to Mohamad Salah who was able to gather it on the edge of the area and unleash a rocketing low drive that was well-saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Jurgen Klopp’s men piled on the chances as time began to run out but Barcelona proved their clinical edge up the other end as Suarez’ initial effort rocketed off the bar only to fall to Messi who was able to tap home Barca’s second.
It would only get worse as Messi curled home a wonderfully hit free-kick to seal the result and score his 600th goal in all competitions in a Barcelona jersey.
The away side had one last chance to salvage an all important away goal but substitute Roberto Firmino’s shot was saved brilliantly by Ter Stegen before it fell to Salah who remarkably hit the post from point-blank range.
The result means Barcelona have full control of the tie heading into the second leg at Anfield as Liverpool will need to turn around a remarkable three goal deficit to reach the UEFA Champions League Final for a second successive year.
They will meet again next Wednesday morning at 5 AM (AEST) but in the mean-time, the Reds will look to keep their title hopes alive as they travel to Newcastle on Sunday morning.
While Barca, who have already wrapped up the La Liga title, will travel to take on relegation battlers Celta Vigo.