NYON: Lionel Messi reminded the international game that he remains a powerful force for brilliance with the hat-trick with which Barcelona opened their Champions League campaign in a 4-0 win over PSV Endhoven.
Messi will not feature, for the first time in a decade, among the top three when world federation FIFA rewards its top players in London next Monday. But he bounced back from his World Cup disappointment with Argentina by claiming the eighth Champions League hat-trick of his career in Group B.
His superb 32nd-minute free-kick was his side’s first shot on target and set up a comfortable win in which Ousmane Dembele also got on the scoresheet with a top-class solo goal.
PSV had their chances with Gaston Pereiro coming close early on but the game changed when Messi curled home his opener after Dembele was pulled down.
Dembele lashed home Barcelona’s second from long range in the 74th minute before Messi rounded off another dazzling display despite French defender Samuel Umtiti’s late red card for two bookable offences.
Messi’s hat-trick took him clear of his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has seven trebles to his name in this competition.
In the group’s other tie Internazionale struck twice in the last seven minutes to defeat Tottenham 2-1 in Milan.
Spurs went ahead early in the second half thanks to Christian Eriksen’s shot on the rebound but Mauro Icardi equalised with four minutes left and Vecino punished more sloppy Tottenham defending two minutes into stoppage time.
Substitute Roberto Firmino drilled home an added-time winner as Liverpool won an entertaining Group C opener 3-2 at home to Paris Saint-Germain.
Last season’s beaten finalists had squandered a two-goal lead given to them by Daniel Sturridge, on his first start for the Reds in the competition, and James Milner’s penalty inside 36 minutes.
However, PSG enjoyed a stroke of luck with the absence of an offside flag in the build-up to Thomas Meunier pulling one back and when Neymar and Kylian Mbappe combined for the latter to score seven minutes from time it appeared the damage had been done.
However, Firmino – left out of the starting line-up with an eye injury sustained in Saturday’s win at Tottenham – struck in the second minute of added time as Jurgen Klopp’s side began another European adventure in dramatic style.
The group;s other tie, between Red Star Belgrade and Napoli, ended goalless
In Group A Atletico Madrid came from behind to win 2-1 in Monaco, after Samuel Grandsir had given Leonardo Jardim’s Ligue 1 strugglers an 18th-minute lead.
Diego Costa equalised for the visitors on the half-hour and Jose Gimenez netted what turned out to be the winning goal in injury time at the end of the first half.
Elsewhere Christian Pulisic scored in the 85th minute to give Borussia Dortmund a 1-0 win at Club Brugge.
In Group D goals from Garry Rodrigues, Eren Derdiyok and Selcuk Inan helped Galatasaray to a comfortable 3-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow in Istanbul, despite the late sending-off of midfielder Badou N’Diaye.
Schalke and Porto drew 1-1 with goals from Breel Embolo (above) and an Otavio penalty respectively.