Messi: Barcelona shouldn’t give up hope

No team has ever advanced after losing the first leg of a

European Cup tie by four goals.

To Lionel Messi, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

After he and Barcelona were mauled 4-0 at Bayern Munich in the

Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, Messi said they must not

give up hope for the return leg at the Camp Nou next week.

That, he said, will be ”a very tough match” given the

seemingly insurmountable four-goal difference, but ”you have to go

for it and try to achieve it. They are very good, but we will try


Nobody in a Barcelona jersey was less impressive than Messi, the

spearhead who didn’t fire a shot at goal and was practically

invisible at Bayern. He was in doubt to play until hours before the

match, when he was medically cleared following a lingering right

hamstring injury since April 2.

”I hadn’t played for a while, but I felt good,” Messi


”I couldn’t do much, facing that kind of result. It was a


Football commentator Josep Maria Minguella said on Spanish radio

Cadena Cope that Messi’s father, Jorge, told him on Tuesday that

his son was not fit. ”Messi’s father told me at lunch that he was

not ready to play,” Minguella said.

Regardless, Barcelona and its fans are counting on Messi to save

them again, as he did in the two previous rounds.

In the last 16, Barcelona overcame a two-goal deficit against AC

Milan when Messi scored a pair in a 4-0 win at home, and in the

quarterfinals against Paris Saint-Germain, he went on as a

second-half substitute and set up the 1-1 equalizer that allowed

Barcelona to advance on away goals.

Although assistant coach Jordi Roura complained that two Bayern

goals benefited from refereeing decisions, without mentioning two

occasions when Barcelona players appeared to handle the ball in the

area and weren’t penalized, he conceded, ”Bayern were superior and

I congratulate them.”

Barcelona remained true to style and held 63 percent of the

possession, but a muscular Bayern was able to pressure the midfield

and dominate with set-pieces. The German side took 11 corners to

Barcelona’s four and had nine attempts on target to Barcelona’s


Coach Tito Vilanova was seen pacing the edge of the field,

looking ashen, gaunt and at a loss as to what tactics to employ. He

did not deploy Cesc Fabregas, who has considerable experience in

organizing defenses against corners.

Dani Alves said Bayern made things very difficult by applying

pressure quickly on the midfield. ”They pressurized with up to

four players, so it became very difficult to come out with the ball

under control,” Alves said.

The defeat was Barcelona’s worst in European competition in 19

years, since Fabio Capello’s AC Milan trounced Johan Cruyff’s

”Dream Team” 4-0 in the Champions League final at the Athens

Olympic Stadium in 1994.

”When you come up against a rival that competes better than you

and has things you don’t, you have to take your hat off,” Alves