Hat-trick man Messi sparkles, Chelsea shocked
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring a goal against Ajax during their Champions League soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona September 18, 2013. REUTERS photoLionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona began their Champions League campaign with a 4-0 win over Ajax on Wednesday but Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea suffered a shock home defeat.
Messi took his tally to 62 Champions League goals and became the first player to score more than four Champions League hat-tricks, whilst also netting his 24th such treble for Barca.
A day after Cristiano Ronaldo hit three in Real Madrid’s 6-1 thumping of Galatasaray, Messi reminded everyone who is still the four-time reigning Ballon d’Or winner.
Despite boasting eight European Cup and Champions League crowns between them, Barcelona and Ajax had never met before their Group H encounter at the Nou Camp.
And typically it was a dazzling display from Messi that got the 2009 and 2011 winners off to the ideal start.
Dedicated to Martino
And the diminutive wizard dedicated the victory to Barça coach Gerard Martino, who will fly home to Argentina to attend his father’s funeral.
“It was a special game. It is a shame what has happened and he is suffering, but we are all with him in this moment,” he said.
Ajax are a far cry from the brilliant outfit that romped to their fourth title in 1995, just three years after Barca had broken their duck in the competition.
Messi’s first had an air of inevitability about it as he was first felled on the edge of the area and then stepped up to curl home a sumptuous free-kick.
And his second came in another of Messi’s classic moves as he took a pass from Sergio Busquets on the right before cutting inside onto his left foot to shoot home.
Centre-back Gerard Pique headed home a pinpoint Neymar cross.
But Messi didn’t allow anyone else to hog the limelight for long as he fired home his third from Xavi’s pass 15 minutes from time.
In the group’s other game, AC Milan left it late before avoiding an embarrassing slip-up at the San Siro as Emilio Izaguirre’s own goal broke Celtic’s hearts, with Sulley Muntari adding a second to secure the Rossoneri a 2-0 success.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea were stunned in the shock result of the night as FC Basel left Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 victory in Group E.
Mourinho remained calm in adversity, saying: “I’m not in shock. The reality is that sometimes you don’t win. I’m not happy of course. We have taken a step back in qualification but we have five games left to finish in the top two.”
Schalke 04 took command of the group with three goals in the final quarter to beat Steaua Bucharest 3-0.
Last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund had a disastrous start to their campaign as they went down 2-1 at Napoli in Group F.
Arsenal joined Napoli at the top of the group with a 2-1 win over Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.