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UEFA Champions League
14 February 2012
• BayArena, Leverkusen
Referee: C. Thomson
• Attendance: 29400
M. Kadlec 52'
A. Sánchez 41', 55'
L. Messi 88'
It's about time for me to go, but before I do I thought I'd satisfy all you football needs for tonight. You can find all the post-match reaction and such right here on Goal.com It's a goodbye from me, Daniel Quinton-Navarro, and a goodbye from St. Valentine.
Our usual Tuesday and Wednesday night ritual has returned, with a host of matches still to come tomorrow evening and you can follow all of those right here on Goal.com
90' + 4'
And there is the full-time whistle at the BayArena, 3-1 the final score in the first Champions League match of 2012.
90' + 3'
Messi and Alves link-up again with the full-back's chipped forward pass has the Argentine with a sight of goal but he can't quite get it under control and before he can the flag is raised. Not against him but even so the referee gives the home side the free-kick.
90' + 2'
Leverkusen looking for a match saving second here but Kiessling is just offside after he tried to play a neat one-two.
90' + 1'
D. da Costa
Assist Daniel Alves
GOAL! LIONEL MESSI!!! Dani Alves is slid in by the Argentine with a wonderful pass and has a chance to score himself but the full-back takes it away from goal. He then gives it back to Messi who tucks it in from three yards out with a stretching volley. 3-1. Three way goals.
Goal Lionel Messi
Leverkusen pump a deep free-kick toward Kiessling but Barca defend it well before they launch another attack, Barca may have to be content with holding onto what they have here.
Yellow Card Thiago Alcántara
Around four minutes to go here, plus stoppage time. It's one of those that could have a late, match changing goal in it.
Ding-dong-ding-DONG! SO CLOSE FROM SANCHEZ! Pedro's corner is swung in and the Chilean's flick header brings about a superb save from Leno, who managed to tip it away from Busquets on the rebound as well.
Ding-dong-ding. Back to the comical officiating!? Kiessling is adjudged to have barged Mascherano off the ball with an overzealous challenge, even though it was the Argentine who pushed his shoulder against the German before bouncing back off him.
Back to the football that we want to see, and it is Messi bursting forward making several defenders back off him. The Argentine takes the ball to the left and works space to shoot but his shot doesn't have enough pace to trouble Leno who makes an easy save.
Yellow Card G. Castro
Busquets and Castro go shoulder to shoulder and they both end up off the pitch, with the Barca man falling to the ground. Somehow Castro is shown a yellow card in all of that, interesting from the official that.
MASSIVE CHANCE! The substitute, Kiessling, with a great opportunity to level the match after Castro's cross. The delivery was simply perfect and the striker's header was on target but far too easy for Valdes.
Certainly an attacking minded substitutes there as a forward thinking player comes for the defensive midfielder, Simon Rolfes.
Pedro with an awful touch here, after Barca looked to be in a promising position. Messi delays the pass as his team-mates run across him opening up the space for Pedro but the substitutes first touch is too far ahead of him and Corluka hacks clear.
Puyol's attempted clearance is hammered at Rolfes who looks to start a Leverkusen attack but Barca easily deal with the second wave as the German side look lacking of ideas.
LEO MESSI STRIKES THE UPRIGHT! MAGIC! That was sheer magic, the Argentine looks content to come back away from goal in the wing before showing a sudden spurt of pace which helps him past two Leverkusen defenders. He is then faced with Leno who goes to ground inviting Messi to clip it over the onrushing keeper only to see the ball rebound off the post.
And at the end of the passing move Thiago is close to adding a third for the Catalans. He holds his run as he looks to get their ahead of Leno who reads the play and just manages to get there.
Barca;s quick passing here may tell in the final minutes of the game as Leverkusen may be fatigued after chasing the ball down for long periods at a time.
Adriano has a knock here and Guardiola is forced into a change, introducing Pedro to the fray.
The German side are still searching for an equaliser as Rolfes is involved moving his team forward. And it is Kadlec screaming forward hoping to get his second of the night but Dani Alves just gets there ahead of him to clear the danger.
Fabregas is next to ask question of Leverkusen's defence as he looks to cut inside following a strong run. The Spaniard is given room to send in a cross but it is too close to the keeper who easily collects.
Kadlec does well there with Sanchez for company as they competed for the ball following Valdes' pass out of defence. The Leverkusen man wins the battle as he plays the ball back to his own keeper.
CASTRO HITS THE POST!!! Busquets gives the ball away with a sloppy pass and a neat interchange from Leverkusen's midfield ends in a pass towards the far post. Castro came in late to crash an effort across goal but Valdes managed to touch it onto the post, some save that was.
Match has fallen a bit flat again, apparently five minutes of excitement is too much! Thiago looks to inject some pace into the match as he breaks forward but ultimately Abidal's low cross is easily cleared as the attack comes to an end.
Leverkusen committing players further forward this half, and one of those players is Bender who moves forward into space but the BayArena crowd groan as the pass is easily intercepted.
Iniesta has done his job tonight as Thiago comes on to replace him, tired legs maybe or is Guardiola looking for a change from his team?
We have a game of football all of a sudden as Rolfes wins the ball far up the pitch before touching the ball to Augusto. The Brazilian took a quick shot that nearly caught Valdes unawares but the stopper was equal to it with a smart save.
Assist Cesc Fàbregas
Goal Alexis Sánchez
GOAL!! ALEXIS SANCHEZ!! It's two for the Chilean, after he expertly rounded the keeper to roll the ball into an empty net. Much like the first he owes much to the assist, this time Fabregas' perfectly weighted through ball dissected the Leverkusen defence brilliantly giving Sanchez a great chance, which he eagerly took.
It could have been dangerous but Dani Alves went for the top corner, looking to wrap his foot around the shot but it was way over the target.
Yellow Card Vedran Corluka
Barcelona respond straight away as they put pressure back on Leverkusen's defence winning a free-kick to the left of the goal in a dangerous area.
Assist Vedran Corluka
Goal Michal Kadlec
GOAL!!!! KADLEC LEVELS!!!! Can you believe it?! Corluka does brilliantly well on the right flank somehow managing to dig out a cross to the far post and there is Kadlec to head back across goal. GAME. ON.
Puyol is given time to play a forward pass and Sanchez is after it but the ball skids off the turf and into the hands of Leno to the relief of Leverkusen's defence.
Schurrle, Augusto and Rolfes are pushing further up as they try to force Barcelona to play a long ball, much more promising from the home side so far as they seek an equaliser.
Superb delivery from the set-piece has Puyol stretching to flick clear, he manages to touch it but to the advantage of the opposition. The ball reaches the back post as a result of Puyol's header and Friedrich comes stealing in but he cannot direct his effort on target.
Slightly brighter start from the German side as they are caught offside following a long ball forward. On second glance they weren't offside, shame that would have been interesting so early after the break.
Leverkusen didn't muster a single shot on goal in that first half, may have to step it up in the second-half.
Teams are back out at the BayArena, and WE ARE OFF!!
Naish thinks: "@dquintonnavarro Guardiola should just play Fabregas, Xavi, and Iniesta in midfield, they'd just pass it around without giving it away." That would be a devastating midfield, only time an opposing team would have the ball would be after kick-off!
On Twitter, Shashwat Bachchan said: "Interesting to see how fab would play as a playmaker in barca..ps he hasn't done it at barca:p. Nyways 3-1 to barca".
Tom from Nigeria is confident of a Barcelona win tonight, but admits that Leverkusen are a dangerous side.
Half-time team talk about to take place in the dressing rooms; what would you guys be saying to the respective players? Tweet @dquintonnavarro.
45' + 1'
There isn't any time for the corner however, as the referee blows for half-time. Not quite the spectacle we were all hoping for, was it?
MESSI!!! Remarkable run from the Argentine who sublimely keeps the ball within a yard of his feet. He finds himself in the penalty area but Messi tries to round one too many and Leverkusen touch the ball behind.
Barcelona seem content to see out 'til the end of the half as they play it amongst themselves around the centre circle before Fabregas makes a superb break forward. If anything his movement was too quick for his team-mates as well as he has to check as he waits for support but Leverkusen get to him first.
That is Alexis' first ever Champions League goal.
Assist Lionel Messi
Goal Alexis Sánchez
GOAL!!!!!! ALEXIS SANCHEZ!!!!! It's all down to Messi's first-time pass with the outside of his boot that invites Alexis Sanchez onto the ball. The wingers touch is brilliant, taking him towards goal before steadying himself and slipping the ball in between the legs of Leno to give Barca the lead.
What do I know? Alves steps over the ball for Messi who attempts a cheeky chip toward Abidal but Reinartz is first to it. Leverkusen look to launch a counter but a denied when Puyol supposedly illegally prevents them from getting out of defence.
Messi and Alves are again standing over a free-kick after Adriano was brought down on the edge of the area. Likely for Alves to whip this in, favours a right-footer for sure.
And it nearly results in a chance for Messi. The Argentine brought the ball down expertly with his chest before checking his run and somehow managing to squeeze a shot away. However, he was unbalanced and it was easy for the 'keeper in the end.
Valdes comes out a long way to deal with the ball, but it is toward the touchline opposed to the half-way line and Leverkusen look to take a quick throw in. In their desperation to catch Valdes out of his goal however they give the ball away and Barca can break here.
Mascherano fails to deal with a high ball as he gives the ball away with a first time pass. Leverkusen work it well to the right side only for the cross to be too close to the Valdes who takes it out of the air comfortably.
Barca try something different as Adriano pops up on the right wing and he shifts the ball inside to Messi. The Brazilian followed his pass and Messi uses that as he looks to turn inside but he finds a four defenders denying him any space.
Schurrle does well on the near touch line, first taking the ball around Abidal with a superb touch and then darting in between two Barca players. The ball breaks for Renato inside the area but before he can hit a shot he is crowded out and Barcelona work it clear.
They are at it again are the midfielders, this time Busquets moves forward and takes two Leverkusen defenders out of the game before trying to find Messi with a poke forward. The Argentine though had made a different run and the German side can easily clear.
This time however, Iniesta and Busquets work the ball and it ends with the former clipping a superb ball over the top and had it not caught the back of Messi's heel the Argentine would have had a sight of goal.
It feels like this match is in a five minute loop at present as Barcelona move forward, then play the ball back to either Puyol or Mascherano. They try again before being frustrated allowing Leverkusen to hit long, and then it happens all over again.
There is that man again, Bender preventing Barcelona from shifting through the gears as he comes in with a perfectly times challenge.
Barcelona play keep ball before Busquet's tired looking pass is well behind Abidal and goes out of play for a throw-in. Completely uncharacteristic that was.
They end the attack working the ball out to Adriano who looks to find the top corner but his effort is wayward. Credit to the German side here, they have a game plan and they have stuck to it.
Leverkusen come forward and unlike in previous attempts when they lose they ball they continue to press high up the pitch. Their harassment of Barca's defence leads to a free-kick and Barcelona look to launch a quick counter.
Schurrle, cutting a lonely figure up front does well to win a free-kick despite being surrounded by three Barca players but they fail to use the set piece gifting the ball straight back to Iniesta.
However, the delivery is poorly flighted and the Barcelona defenders can easily usher it behind for a goal kick.
There is that diagonal ball again from Mascherano toward Alves but this time it is way over hit and it'll be a goal kick for the home side. Mascherano commits a foul with the ball in the air giving Leverkusen a chance to test Valdes from a set piece.
Renato Augusto requires some treatment after sliding in on Abidal, doing his defensive duties valiantly but Leverkusen will have to make do without him for a while.
Mascherano looks wide with beautifully weighted pass but Leverkusen are quickly in the face of Dani Alves forcing the Brazilian to work the ball backwards.
A bit of adventure from Corluka here, the on loan Tottenham man gets forward from his right-back position and attempts a delicate ball in behind Barca's defence but it isn't read by his team-mate and the chance goes begging.
The home side are playing with a bank of six defenders, and then two immediately in front of them but Barcelona are still managing to find a way through. This time Fabregas gets the ball in space on the far side but his cross his poor and momentarily cleared by Friedrich.
SCHWAAB!!! WHAT A CHALLENGE! Messi capitalises on the run of the ball playing it wide to Sanchez on the right side of the area and he looks to return to the ball to the Argentine for a simple finish but the defender comes sliding in to prevent the ball from ever reaching Messi.
Alves hits it, looking to bend it around the wall with an ejection of pace but his effort is a little wild and too high to trouble Leno.
Barcelona have a free-kick in a dangerous position, around 25 yards from goal but quite central and it is Dani Alves and Messi standing over the ball.
Superb pass from Dani Alves down the line into the path of Fabregas but he is denied from pushing on by a simply supber sliding challenge from Friedrich.
Yellow Card Daniel Schwaab
Abidal just gets to the ball ahead of Schwaab and the defender is committed to the challenge which leaves the Frenchman lying on the ground. The Leverkusen defender gets a yellow card for his troubles.
Poor from Bender as his return pass from a throw-in is easily read by Alexis Sanchez who looks to launch a quick attack but Schwaab comes across to clear the danger with a long clearance.
All 11 men in black are in their own half as they allow Barcelona to play ahead of them, and when Busquets searches for Dani Alves on the right, the pass is a tad heavy and goes out of play before the Brazilian can catch up with it though.
It is a steady start the match so far, both teams content with stroking the ball around in defence until Iniesta makes a darting run forward but it is easily dealt with by Friedrich who gets there ahead of the Spaniard.
The Spanish side have retained possession brilliantly in the opening exchanges and are claiming a hand ball on the edge of Leverkusen's penalty area but the referee gives the decision the other way.
Barcelona gets us underway in Germany in their full turquoise kit attacking from right to left, and it is just shy of minute before they are forced to play the ball all the way back to Valdes.
That familiar music sounds out around the BayArena, oh how it has been missed. We are just a few minutes away from what is going to be, we all hope, a fitting return of the Champions League.
FACT: The German team has conceded 199 goals in UEFA competitions so far in its history.
This is the first time that these two are meeting in the last 16, in the previous two matches over two legs Barcelona have been victorious. Time for Leverkusen to step up says I.
FACT: Liverpool are the last side to dump Barcelona out at the last 16 stage of the Champions League, back in the 2006/07 season.
FACT: Barcelona could become the first away team to win more than once at the BayArena in the Champions League.
FACT: Lionel Messi is a single strike away from reaching 19 goals in the Champions League knockout stage, he is currently level with two other European greats. Who knows who those players are?
Prediction for tonight from our experts here is a 2-0 victory for the Spanish side; "Leverkusen would probably have wanted Barcelona to win at the weekend, as a defeat means they have to contend with the prospect of a backlash from the visitors. The Catalans have some key personnel returning to action and should have too much for their hosts on what looks set to be another freezing night of football in Germany."
GET INVOLVED: Share your thoughts via the comments tab at the bottom of the page, or if you a part of the Twittersphere then tweet away; @dquintonnavarro
Neither side are performing domestically at present, and both coaches will hope that they can find some fresh impetus with the return of European football tonight. Leverkusen lost to Bundesliga leaders Dortmund on Saturday, whilst Barcelona fell 10 points behind Real Madrid atop La Liga after suffering their second defeat of the season against Osasuna.
BARCELONA STARTING XI (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal; Fabregas, Iniesta, Busquets; Adriano, Messi, Alexis. SUBSTITUTES: Pinto; Barta, Thiago, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Pedro, Cuenca.
LEVERKUSEN STARTING XI (4-3-2-1): Leno; Corluka, Schwaab, Friedrich, Kadlec; Rolfes, Reinartz, Bender; Renato Augusto, Castro; Schurrle. SUBSTITUTES: Yelldell; Oczipka, Da Costa, Omer Toprak, Ortega, Bellarabi, Kiessling.
TEAM NEWS: Leverkusen, without a recognised striker opt for Schurrle to lead the line whilst Guardiola rests Xavi and Pique - neither of whom make the substitutes bench.
February 14th, Valentines Day - best date imaginable, Leverkusen-Barcelona match up at the BayArena in the Last 16 of this seasons Champions League. Simply, cannot wait.
Welcome, Daniel Quinton-Navarro here and this is here is what we have all be eagerly anticipating since the turn of the year. Forget New Year's Resolutions, the destination for your summer holiday or your wedding day - it is the return of the UEFA Champions League, and it's knockout baby!
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