Lionel Messi scored five goals as Barcelona destroyed Bayer Leverkusen to confirm their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Barca had been understated but superior in the first leg in Germany, winning 3-1, and were expected to ease through in the return match. However, they played with trademark hunger under Pep Guardiola as Messi became the first player to score five in a single Champions League game while substitute Cristian Tello added two in a performance of startling brilliance.
Leverkusen had travelled to Catalonia in confident mood after winning their third straight Bundesliga game at the weekend. A 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich has boosted the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League again next season, but despite being heavy underdogs to progress to the last eight, they had not fully given up on remaining in the competition a little longer this year.
But they were hanging on in the 10th minute as Barca suddenly burst forward. Messi’s run into the box saw him meet Cesc Fabregas’ sublime lofted ball and only a sharp reflex save by Bernd Leno stopped them opening the scoring, before Gonzalo Castro blocked Pedro’s shot on the rebound.
Xavi tried his luck with a free-kick and Lars Bender had a shot at the other end which Victor Valdes saved relatively easily. Xavi’s whipped-in 23rd minute free-kick was nearly nodded in by Gerard Pique but Leno made the left-handed save.
Barca took the lead in the 25th minute as Xavi teamed up with Messi delightfully, the midfielder chipping an inch-perfect ball over the halfway line which Messi collected before producing a cheeky lob over Leno’s left shoulder.
Leverkusen midfielder Simon Rolfes had a shot blocked and the contest was essentially over as Messi scored a trademark second three minutes before the break, easily dancing his way inside after receiving Andres Iniesta’s pass before producing a left-footed finish to make it 2-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.
The second half began as the first ended. Fabregas produced a similar pass to Xavi’s for the first goal, lofting the ball over perfectly to leave Leverkusen’s high defensive line stranded as Messi took it on before chipping Leno once more in the 49th minute.
Striker Eren Derdiyok showed great strength to hold off Javier Mascherano inside the box only to see his delicate cross-shot come to nothing.
Substitute Tello then made it 4-0 in the 55th minute as he was put through on the left by Fabregas before slotting home right-footed. Three minutes later the humiliation continued as Messi got his fourth, dinking the ball carefully in off the post.
Debutant Tello got his second just after the hour mark when Leverkusen afforded him a ludicrous amount of space and Dani Alves picked him out with a pinpoint cross to side-foot home.
Messi then made history with his fifth of the night five minutes from time, becoming the first player to score that many in a single game as he bent home a left-footed strike with alarming simplicity to make it 12 goals in seven European appearances this season.