Ton-up Messi keeps raising the Barca bar

Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi scoring a trademark free kick in the 61st minute against Olympiakos to register his 100th goal in European football competitions. The Spanish giants will progress to the last 16 of the Champions League with a win at Ol
Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi scoring a trademark free kick in the 61st minute against Olympiakos to register his 100th goal in European football competitions. The Spanish giants will progress to the last 16 of the Champions League with a win at Olympiakos on Nov 1.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BARCELONA • Lionel Messi scored his 100th goal in European competitions as Barcelona moved closer to qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages by outclassing Greek champions Olympiakos 3-1 on Wednesday despite playing the second half with 10 men.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde also celebrated his first 100 days in charge and has overseen a sublime start of 10 wins to go with a draw at Atletico Madrid last weekend in his first 11 LaLiga and Champions League matches in charge.

Messi struck his landmark goal with a 61st-minute free kick as Barca went 2-0 up. It was his 97th Champions League goal. His other three came in the Uefa Super Cup.

"I hope he can get to 200 by the end of this season," joked Valverde after the Argentinian took his tally to 15 goals in all competitions this term.

"His numbers validate what we see from him every day. He is constantly breaking down barriers."

Gerard Pique was sent off two minutes before half-time for two bookings, one for tugging an opponent's shirt and the other for slapping the ball into the net, but Barca were barely threatened by a hapless Olympiakos side who are badly underperforming in their league.

Barca took the lead in the 18th minute at a rainswept Nou Camp when visiting defender Dimitrios Nikolaou turned Gerard Deulofeu's cross into his own net.

It was the fifth own goal Barca have benefited from this season in all competitions.

France left-back Lucas Digne scored his first goal in the Champions League for Barca to give the Spanish giants a 3-0 lead.

Greek defender Nikolaou, 19, headed home from a corner to give Olympiakos a scantly-deserved consolation goal in the 89th minute.

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu also paid tribute to Messi.

"I would give him every prize in the world, he has been the best player of all time for many years now," he said.

"He has made this era sublime. We see him as the leader of our team, he contributes so much and we all never tire of enjoying him."

Barca top Champions League Group D with nine points. A win at Olympiakos in two weeks will seal their place in the last 16.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Ton-up Messi keeps raising the Barca bar'. Print Edition | Subscribe