Lionel Messi extended his goals tally since his return from injury to three goals to help Barcelona to a 1-1 away draw in Germany on Wednesday in a UEFA Champions League match day six encounter against Bayer Leverkusen.
Messi opened the scoring in Germany but former Manchester United man Chicharito equalized three minutes later as Barçelona progressed to second round with an unbeaten record while the Bundesliga side will now have to settle for the Europa League.
The Argentine was the only surviving member of the ‘MSN’ in Barcelona’s Champions League group final game at the BayArena. Neymar was cut out completely from the squad, while Luis Suarez was named as substitute, paving the way for Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi who impressed in the 6-1 thumping of Villanovense in a Cup game to stake their respective claims.
In what was a second-string Barcelona side named by Luis Enrique, there were also starts for Team ‘B’ graduates Wilfried Kaptoum and Sergi Samper in the middle of the park.
Bayer came out the stronger side, hoping to take advantage of Barcelona’s inexperienced members but they soon went behind after Rakitic collected the ball and played a superb pass to Messi, who timed his run to perfection off the shoulder of Kevin Kampl. From there it was all the genius of La Pulga, who rounded Bayer goalkeeper Bernd Leno before sweeping a shot into the net for the 1-0 lead.
But Leverkusen were undaunted, and four minutes later they pulled level at 1-1 through Chicharito Hernández, with the Mexican striker curling in a left-footer off a cross from the left.
Luis Enrique’s men finish Group E in first place with 14 points on the back of four wins and two draws.