UCL: Messi double seals Barca's last-16 berth

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UCL: Messi double seals Barca's last-16 berth

Posted on : Thursday 24th of November 2016

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Glasgow: The dazzling Lionel Messi returned from illness to score yet another double to help Barcelona ease into the knockout stages of the Champions League for a 13th successive year with their 2-0 win at Celtic on Wednesday.

Messi, who missed the goalless draw with Malaga in La Liga Saturday with a sickness bug, was back to his tormenting best just as he had been when scoring a hat-trick in Barca's 7-0 win over Celtic in their Group C fixture at the Camp Nou two months earlier.

The Argentinian followed up an impressive first-half strike from close range with a penalty after the break, and was a constant threat throughout the match alongside Brazilian teammate Neymar.

The brace took Messi's Champions League total to 92 goals, including nine in this season's group stages alone, and though he narrowly missed a hat-trick, his genius ensured Celtic exited all European competition while Barca will progress as group winners.

Barca beat Celtic

It was a game that we expected. In one of the toughest groups, we have come top. I have to congratulate the team," said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.

Celtic coach Brendan Rodgers had impressed upon his players not to give their illustrious opponents too much respect as they had done in Barcelona and they were certainly not humiliated in the same manner as they were in September.

They had some decent goalscoring opportunities which fell to striker Moussa Dembele, but he failed to add to his three goals in this season's group stage. For all Celtic's pressing and possession, however, Barca had too much class with Messi their executioner again, latching on to Neymar's dinked through ball to fire first-time past Craig Gordon in the 24th minute.

He doubled his tally from the penalty spot in the 56th after Luis Suarez was fouled by Emilio Izaguirre. Messi had further opportunities to add to his tally and only a remarkable save by Gordon from a Suarez header in the first half prevented the winning margin from being wider.

"The players gave everything," said Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers.

"We restricted them to one or two chances and at 1-0 we had a real chance to equalize. However, they went up to the other end and scored a second."

PSG hold Gunners

Paris Saint-Germain put themselves in the box seat to enter the knockout rounds as Group A winners after an entertaining 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

Arsenal, who like PSG had already qualified for the last 16, looked set to finish top of their group for the first time since 2011 after Marco Verratti's comical own goal on the hour.

But they were denied when Lucas's goalbound header was deflected by Alex Iwobi past David Ospina. It means PSG have 11 points from five games, the same as Arsenal, but have a superior head-to-head courtesy of away goals after the sides drew 1-1 in Paris in September.

The French champions host Ludogorets next when victory will guarantee they finish above the Gunners who travel to Basel.

"We lack something in our creativity, but we got a point. It might not be enough, but you never know," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said The Frenchman was also disappointed at his side's inability to hold on to their lead. "We had good spells in the game, but we could not dominate," he said.

"Tonight my concern is that we were 2-1 up and allowed them to come back at us. It's difficult to understand how easy we gave away a goal at a corner."

A point was no less than PSG deserved as they started and finished the game stronger than an Arsenal side who struggled to exert any sustained pressure.

PSG zipped the ball around on the lush Emirates pitch during a confident opening and Edinson Cavani glanced a header wide.

Cavani header was then cleared off the line by Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal continued to stand off and admire PSG's passing, much to the annoyance of the crowd, and they paid the price for their lethargy after 18 minutes.

Thiago Motta's precision pass released Blaise Matuidi and his inviting low cross was swept home by the sliding Cavani for his 16th goal of the season.

PSG were content to keep the ball in their own half, but were architects of their own downfall seconds before half-time. Maxwell sloppily conceded possession and Mesut Ozil's clever blind pass sent Alexis Sanchez free. The Chilean forward's footwork proved too quick for Grzegorz Krychowiak who brought him down with his trailing leg for a clear penalty. Giroud, restored to the starting lineup after his late equalizer at Manchester United at the weekend, tucked the spot kick past Alphonse Areola.

Lucas skimmed the crossbar with a free-kick early in the second half for PSG, but Arsenal then enjoyed their best spell. Having been gifted their equalizer Arsenal were thankful to the visitors again as they took the lead on the hour. This time Aaron Ramsey's shot was blocked and an attempted clearance by Marquinhos cannoned back off his teammate Marco Verrato past the helpless Areola.

PSG equalized when Lucas's powerful header from a corner looked like being a comfortable save for Ospina before Alex Iwobi intervened and glanced the ball with his head past the keeper.

Cavani, who wasted several chances to bury Arsenal in the 1-1 draw in Paris in September, should have done better when he was clean through on goal, but his attempted chip went straight into the hands of Ospina. And the Uruguayan had his head in his hands again when he sent a diving header wide from in front of goal.

The results: Group A: Arsenal drew with Paris Saint Germain 2-2; Ludogorets Razgrad drew with FC Basel 0-0.

Group B: Besiktas drew with Benfica 3-3; Napoli drew with Dynamo Kiev 0-0.

Group C: Borussia Mönchengladbach drew with Manchester City1-1; Celtic lost to Barcelona 0-2.

Group D: FC Rostov bt Bayern Munich 3-2; Atletico Madrid bt PSV Eindhoven 2-0

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