A Lionel Messi hat-trick sent Barcelona into the knockout stages of the Champions League as Barca beat ten-man Plzeň 4-0 on Tuesday
Any hopes that Plzen had of causing an upset ended in the 22nd minute when Marián Čišovský was sent-off. Lionel Messi scored from the resulting penalty kick and the only question left was how many would Barcelona score?
Messi’s penalty was his 200th for Barcelona, and he went on to score his 50th goal of 2011 and second hat-trick in as many games in another brilliant display. Cesc Fabregas got the other Barca goal and it sets up a great match in Milan later this month between AC Milan and Barcelona to see who will finish first and second in the group.
Messi was not the only record breaking Barcelona player tonight. With the clean sheet, Valdes set a record for the longest run without conceding a goal for the club. The previous record was 824 minutes set by Miguel Reina in the 1972-73 season. Valdes broke this record after 38 minutes on Tuesday, and he has not conceded a goal since the 2-2 draw against Valencia on 21 September.
After the match Pep Guardiola praised the magnificent Messi saying:
We have to congratulate Leo [Messi] for once again scoring goals. He has scored his 202nd goal [for Barcelona] at just 24 years of age which says it all really. I am convinced he will beat César Rodríguez’s club record [of 235] but I don’t know if he’ll do it this season; it depends on how we do in the rest of the campaign but you can’t rule it out.
As coaches, we are here to help players like him and others. I tried to move him closer to the area when I arrived at the club; I knew I had to put him in the centre. [Messi] is also conscious that without his team-mates and the people around him none of this would be possible.