Among the uproar about Robin van Persie’s soft red card and the painful post-mortem Arsenal must endure after another trophy fell out of their reach, it is easy to overlook the truly memorable moment from last night’s Champions League tie.Lionel Messi’s exquisite opening goal in Barcelona’s 3-1 victory was the latest in a long line of reminders that this is a player operating on an entirely different stratum to his peers.
Manager Pep Guardiola saluted his talisman, saying: “To talk about if it’s one of Messi’s best goals, there’s no point – he scores such great goals they become normal.”
It began with an error, as an unfit Cesc Fabregas lazily backheeled the ball only vaguely in the direction of Jack WIlshere. AndrÃ©s Iniesta was on it in a flash and displayed wonderfully deft footwork to beat the two Arsenal players that had attempted to combine.
Buying a moment of thinking time by moving the ball away from Laurent Koscielny, Iniesta weighed up a typically impeccable pass which put Messi through against Almunia.
What happened next looked like a fluke, one of those odd flights the ball takes after an unusual deflection.
In fact, Messi had impudently (and deliberately) scooped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper, cradling it for a split second between his toe and the bottom of his shin to tee up an emphatic volley into the empty net.