Barcelona: Barcelona fans can stop worrying. Lionel Messi is just fine — and he just scored a record eighth Champions League hat-trick to prove it.
Three days after a rare poor performance in the Spanish league, Messi returned to normal service with three goals in a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven in their Champions League opener. That took the Argentine past long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has seven Champions League hat-tricks.
Ousmane Dembele also scored for Barcelona, who were already 3-0 up when they were reduced to 10 men as defender Samuel Umtiti was sent off with a second yellow card.
The Group B result extended Barcelona’s unbeaten run at home to 27 matches in the Champions League. The Catalan club have won 25 games and drawn only two during the streak.
Messi had struggled in the team’s league win at Real Sociedad on Saturday, a worrying sign just ahead of the team’s important Champions League opener.
But he put that behind him with a beautiful free kick in the 32nd minute to open the scoring at Camp Nou Stadium. He curled the ball over the PSV wall from 25 meters (yards) out into the top corner beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
“Messi makes extraordinary things look routine,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “The free-kick goal came just when we needed to break the game open. It was masterful.”
Messi’s second goal came after he received a perfect pass by Ivan Rakitic inside the area and calmly sent a low shot into the far corner. He completed his first hat-trick of the season after Luis Suarez set him up on a counter-attack.
“With the score at 1-0, it was dangerous every time they attacked,” Valverde said. “But after the second goal we played better, even with 10 men.”