Lionel Messi became the record Champions League goalscorer and Luis Suarez opened his account for Barcelona as the Catalan giants cruised to a 4-0 win over APOEL Nicosia.
Suarez put Barca ahead with his first goal for the club since his £64million summer move from Liverpool before Messi took center stage with a hat trick — all with his less-favored right foot. The first of those saw him break former Real Madrid striker Raul’s tally of 71 to make the Argentina superstar the leading scorer in the competition’s history.
It was the second notable scoring record that Messi had broken in the space of three days, with the 27-year-old having also become the all-time leading Primera Division marksman at the weekend with his hat-trick against Sevilla. That treble moved Messi onto 253 La Liga goals and broke Telmo Zarra’s 59-year-old mark of 251.
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As well as being a memorable night for Messi and Suarez, the victory keeps Barcelona in with a chance of pipping Paris St Germain to top spot in Group F. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16 but PSG stayed a point clear of Barca with their win over Ajax.
Messi moved level with Raul’s European record with a brace in Barca’s previous match at Ajax, and he could have broken it inside three minutes on Tuesday only to see APOEL goalkeeper Rafael Urko do well to block his effort. Messi was running the show early on and he set up good chances for Suarez and Jordi Alba, neither of which were taken.
It was Suarez who made the breakthrough, though, and in the process get on the scoresheet for the first time in Barcelona colors. The Uruguay international created the chance with a superb bit of skill to turn his marker on the edge of the box and he beat Urko with a side-footed finish, albeit with the aid of a deflection.
That was in the 27th minute, and 11 minutes later Messi made it 2-0 and secured himself yet another spot in the history books when he stuck out his right foot to deflect Rafinha’s shot into the net. Dominant Barca picked up where they left off after the break and Pedro Rodriguez almost made it 3-0 with a low drive in the 51st minute.
A third goal was not much longer in arriving, however, with Messi moving onto 73 Champions League goals in 91 games when he picked up Dani Avles’ pinpoint pass into the area and dinked a shot in off the far post. Further Barca goals looked on the cards, but it was actually APOEL who came closest to netting next with a Tomas De Vincenti effort that produced a superb one-handed save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The home side then received a further boost when Barca forward Rafinha was shown a second yellow card with 20 minutes to go, but the dismissal did little to change the flow of the game with Luis Enrique’s visitors still looking to attack.
Suarez was denied his second by the feet of Urko before APOEL lost their numerical advantage when Joao Guilherme picked up his second booking for a foul on Pedro in the 84th minute. All that was left after that was for Messi to notch up yet another hat-trick, the Barca captain knocking home Pedro’s cut-back to cap a record-breaking evening for the Catalan outfit.