Football: Messi praises Hart for restricting Barcelona to just one goal in return leg

BARCELONA (AFP) - Lionel Messi was in the unusual position of having to laud one of his opponents for once as Joe Hart produced a sensational performance, albeit to no avail, as Barcelona eliminated Manchester City from the Champions League on Wednesday.

Hart made 10 saves to restrict Barca to a 1-0 victory, thanks to Ivan Rakitic's strike on the half-hour mark which sealed a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

Messi teed up the Croatian but his quest to move ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo as the all-time leading scorer in Champions League history was frustrated by the form of the English international.

"Hart is a phenomenon," said the four-time World Player of the Year.

"He saved everything today. I think we did everything to deserve a lot more, we had a lot of clear chances but the keeper had a brilliant game."

Despite being held scoreless, Messi is widely regarded to be in one of the hottest streaks of his career as Barca have won 17 of their last 18 games to make a potential treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League a realistic target.

"I have gone from being a disaster to being in the best form of my career in a very short time," Messi added ironically, referring to Barca's mini-crisis having lost to Real Sociedad at the start of the year.

"I am just enjoying the moment like the rest of the team for the football we are playing and the results we are getting."