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Messi praises Barca stars

LONDON. — Lionel Messi said Barcelona put on a spectacle in their victory over Manchester United in the Champions League football on Tuesday night, but warned his team-mates they cannot afford any more slow starts if they are to win the competition.

Messi capitalised on early mistakes from Ashley Young and David de Gea to score twice at Camp Nou before Philippe Coutinho added a third for a 3-0 win, 4-0 on aggregate.

But United had made a brilliant start before Messi intervened, as Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar within 30 seconds and Scott McTominay fluffed another chance with a poor touch.

“We have shown who we are, we put on a spectacle and played a great game,” said Messi after the match.

“But we came out cold and looked nervous in the first five minutes. It was a bit weird until we regained control of the game and we scored the first goal.

“We cannot come out like that in a Champions League match because we have the experience of Rome last season and it could (have) made qualifying difficult. Five bad minutes can knock you out.

“It will be difficult because these are the best teams,” Messi said. “Those who are there deserve it and it will be very tough against either Liverpool or Porto.”

As Messi reached a first Champions League football semi-final since 2015, his great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, failed to reach the last four since 2010.

Ronaldo, signed by Juventus last summer having won three successive European Cup crowns with Real Madrid to lead the Bianconeri’s Euro obsession, faltered.

Leading 1-0 on the night, Juve contrived to crash to a 3-2 defeat to Ajax, the Dutch side running out deserved winners in Turin.

After leading his side to victory, Messi was informed that Ronaldo and Juventus had crashed out and was asked about the Italian side’s exit.

“That tells you everything (about the competition),” said Messi.

“Any team is complicated, be it Liverpool or Porto (who Barcelona will face in the last four).

“There are those who deserve, the best, and everything is going to be complicated.”

Messi’s double against United took the 31-year-old to 45 goals in all competitions this term.

And Barca boss Ernesto Valverde lauded his skipper post-game, telling Movistar: “Messi always appears.

“Not only in moments, but in the games as a whole.

“He scores but is also the offensive weight of our team.”

Barca, looking for a sixth European Cup, enter the semi-finals for the first time since winning the trophy under Luis Enrique.

But Valverde played down suggestions his side are now favourites for the trophy.

“We have done two good games. That is what you have to do to be able to continue in the Champions League and that you consider us more or less favourites,” he said.

“We are well. We are confident for the next tie against a great rival and for that we have 10 or 15 days left. We would like to reach the final.”

Meanwhile, shares in Juventus plunged as much as a quarter in value yesterday after the Italian soccer club was knocked out of Europe’s Champions League competition by Ajax Amsterdam.

At 0730 GMT, Juventus shares were down 17.3 percent at 1.3960 euros, after trading as low as 1.275 euros.

Juventus signed Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo for a transfer fee of 100 million euros (US$113 million) in the hope he would help the club win Europe’s elite soccer competition, as he did with Real Madrid for the last three seasons.

Juventus have won the Italian league title seven times in a row, but has never managed to win the “treble” of the domestic league, Italy’s cup competition and the Champions League.

Inter Milan is the only Italian club to have achieved such a feat, under coach José Mourinho in the 2009-2010 season.

Juventus, which has already been knocked out of the domestic cup competition this season, missed the chance to clinch an eighth consecutive Serie A title on Saturday after a surprise 2-1 defeat at SPAL. 

Source : The Herald

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