Lionel Messi was surprisingly frank and confident when he took the microphone in front of a full stadium in Barcelona’s last pre-season friendly to tell supporters: ‘We promise we will do everything possible to bring that beautiful [European] Cup back to the Camp Nou this season.’
Well this wasn’t a bad way to start making good on his promise.
He scored a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Mark van Bommel’s PSV 4-0. Ousmane Dembele got the other goal and the form of those two alongside Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho will send a collective shudder through the other Champions League pretenders. PSV were not bad. Barecelona were just too good.
Lionel Messi produced a masterclass as 10-man Barcelona swatted aside PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League
The Argentine opened his account on the night exquisitely, curling the ball over the PSV wall and into the top right corner
The crowd gasped as their star man finally broke the deadlock and PSV’s stubborn resistance in a closely-fought first half
But it was only to get better for him and Barcelona as he added further goals as PSV were given a hiding in the Group B opener
Ousmane Dembele scored the other goal on the night which was finished off superbly from the edge of the Eindhoven area
In what has been dubbed by many as the ‘Group of Death’, PSV have their work cut out after an opening Group B defeat
There were 32 minutes gone when Messi stepped up to take a free-kick on the edge of the D. Dembele had gone on one of his mazy runs and had been upended in perfect Messi set-piece territory. Barcelona’s captain curled the ball over the wall and past Jeroen Zoet for 1-0. He continues to convert free-kicks as if they were penalities.
The goal gave Barcelona the half-time advantage their possession deserved. Not that Mark van Bommel’s PSV had been merely spectators.
Gaston Pereiro blasted one early effort over and when Hirving Lozano broke and released Steven Bergwijn his curled effort went just wide of Marc Andre ter Stegen’s far post.
That move started when Dembele dribbled into trouble. His runs with the ball are sometimes seemingly directionless and often past Messi and Luis Suarez who are in space and frustrated that the pass never comes.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde cut an animated figure on the sideline as he urged his players to pick up the pace
PSV boss Mark van Bommel had his side well drilled and they looked to frustrate their hosts before Messi’s moment of magic
The visitors sat deep but looked to punish Barcelona on the counter and at set pieces where they relished the physical battle
But for every run down a PSV cul-de-sac there was a run straight at the heart of their defence. And it was his audacity that gave Messi the chance he grabbed. The galloping run ended by Nick Viergever who was booked before Messi handed out the extra punishment.
Barcelona’s other star performer in the first half was Coutinho. How hard it must have been for him last season to watch as Liverpool reached the Champions League final. He was keen to make up for lost time from the first minute linking well with Messi and then heading one Suarez cross over.
He then crossed for Messi who shot over. There was a vital block from Samuel Umtiti at the other end to deny Luuk de Jong.
PSV played like a team who have won all five of their league games so far this season scoring 21 goals and conceding only three. Barcelona needed to be at their best but with Messi and Coutinho linking up well they were and could have been further ahead at the break.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Barcelona: ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Coutinho (Lenglet 81), Messi, Luis Suarez, Dembele
Subs not used: Cillessen, Nelson Semedo, Arthur, Rafinha, Munir, Vidal
Goals: Messi (32, 77, 87), Dembele (75)
Sent Off: Umtiti
PSV Eindhoven: Zoet, Dumfries, Schwaab, Viergever (Isimat-Mirin 66), Tasende, Rosario (Gutierrez 82), Pereiro, Hendrix, Bergwijn (Malen 78), de Jong, Lozano
Subs not used: Room, Behich, Sainsbury, Ramselaar
Booked: Viergever, de Jong
Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece)
Coutinho could have doubled the lead nine minutes into the second half. Suarez muscled his way to the byline and drilled the ball across the penalty area.
It ran all the way to Coutinho who got underneath it and sent into the seats behind the goal. His next effort was better and would have found the far corner had the keeper not saved well.
It was getting lively now. Umtiti and De Jong were both booked and Van Bommel was spoken to for complaining. Suarez then went down on the end of a flailing arm from Viergever who had already been booked.
This time there was no card and no goal from Messi’s free-kick.
Unsurprisingly the Argentine ace was closely marked by multiple Eindhoven players but he continued to evade his markers
After years of disappointment in the competition, Barcelona are among the favourites to go on and lift this year’s trophy
But they almost started with a mountain to climb as PSV Eindoven’s Gaston Pereiro impressively went close from long range
PSV were still in it and Jose Tasende’s drive drew a good save from Ter Stegen. Gerard Pique then had to throw himself in front of Lozano’s shot.
But things were still fizzing at the other end and the second goal came with 15 minutes left. The signs were there. One slick passing move between Messi, Coutinho and Suarez ended with the forward dinking the ball on to the top of the crossbar.
It was Dembele who doubled the lead.
He managed to spin away from both Viergever and Jorrit Hendrix with a ‘see ya’ turn that opened enough space for him to curl his shot in Zoet’s far corner. He deserved his goal. Maybe he really is going to be worth all that money.
The lead was doubled 15 minutes from time when Philippe Coutinho found Dembele and he lifted an effort into the corner
Two minutes later it got worse for PSV as Messi evaded his marker, burst into the box and volleyed in a fine team move
Pointing to the stands, Messi, who is now the captain after Andres Iniesta left in the summer, set the standards with a brace
But van Bommel’s side switched off once more with 87 minutes on the clock and Messi capped off the night with a hat-trick
Messi then clipped Busquets’ pass past Zoet and it was 3-0. Only a late red card for Umititi put a crimp in another otherwise perfect first night for Barcelona.
He flattened Lozano and was walking before referee Tasos Sidiropoulos pulled out the red card.
But far from give PSV the chance to score a consolation goal it was Messi who scored next to complete his hat-trick.
There’s a season’s worth of football to play but Barcelona had done more than enough to suggest Messi has a chance of coming good on his mission to bring back the Champions League.