Messi bloodied in brutal reality check
THE Champions League is heating up and on Thursday morning Barcelona took control of its quarter-final with Manchester United by winning the first leg 1-0 at Old Trafford, while Ajax drew 1-1 at home against Juventus.
Luke Shaw nudged Luis Suarez's header over his own line after 12 minutes to give Barcelona the advantage heading into the return leg at the Nou Camp next week.
In Amsterdam, Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the last minute of the first half to put Juventus in front. Ajax hit back through David Neres immediately after the restart to balance the tie before they meet again in Turin.
Barcelona started positively in Manchester and soon broke the United resistance.
Lionel Messi ran on to a chipped pass behind the defence and his cross was headed back across goal by Suarez at the back post before Shaw's intervention turned the ball into the net.
Messi took a bloody nose and swollen eye from being clattered by Chris Smalling but was able to continue.
Smalling said "bring it on" when asked before the match how he would negate Messi, and afterwards stood by his physical approach
"I think it (his challenge) came when we were right on the front foot," Smalling told BT Sport.
"We had to bring the intensity they're not used to every week and there's a lot to play for in second leg."
Barcelona had the last laugh but it was a rare sight to see Messi failing to pose his usual threat under close attention from Smalling.
Diogo Dalot had United's best chance to level but misjudged a header.
Barcelona, who have not won the European crown since 2015, held on to the lead.
"You know when you play Barcelona you have to play well without the ball," United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
"We'll tighten up a few things and go there with one thing in mind - to score."
United requires a repeat its last-16 heroics when it defeated Paris Saint-Germain 3-3 on away goals after losing the first leg 2-0 at home.
"After seeing the PSG game, you do not have to trust the result, they came in Paris with a better result and look what happened, big clubs can do these things, you have to work it out," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.
Juventus recalled Ronaldo after its star was injured on international duty with Portugal last month and he did not disappoint with his 125th Champions League goal.
After a quiet 44 minutes, he fed Joao Cancelo from the centre of the pitch and surged into the box to meet the right back's cross with a thumping header.
"Once again Ronaldo proved to be on a different level, his movements and his sense of timing are simply different from the others," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.
The hosts levelled seconds after half-time when Cancelo allowed Neres to cut in from the left flank and curl a shot beyond Wojciech Szczesny.
"We have shown that we are a team with potential," Ajax's 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt said.
Juventus almost stole it in the dying minutes when Douglas Costa hit the post after a fine solo run. They know a tough match in the Netherlands awaits as they aim to progress to the semi-finals.
"There's 90 minutes left in the tie, let's win at home and reach the semi-finals," Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur said.
LIVERPOOL, TOTTENHAM RUNNING HOT
On Wednesday, Liverpool took a big step towards making the Champions League final four with a 2-0 home win over Porto, while Tottenham Hotspur shocked Manchester City 1-0 in an all-English clash.
First-half goals from Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino gave Liverpool a solid advantage in the quarter-final first leg with Porto, and Juergen Klopp's side will feel confident going into next week's return.
In contrast, everything will be open in Manchester when Spurs defend Son Heung Min's late winner. City, trying to avoid a third consecutive last-eight exit, will rue Sergio Aguero's early penalty miss.
Beaten finalists in 2018, five-time champions Liverpool were immediately on top against two-time Portuguese winners Porto.
The Reds needed only five minutes at Anfield before Keita opened the scoring from the edge of the box, with a deflected shot flying past Iker Casillas. A second goal followed in the 26th minute when Trent Alexander-Arnold hit the byline and Firmino slotted home.
Porto's Moussa Marega, chasing a goal in a seventh consecutive Champions League game, had a trio of half-chances easily saved by goalkeeper Alisson.
Firmino blazed off target when a third goal looked certain before the break but despite Liverpool continuing to press it never did arrive.
"I'm happy, it's the first game ahead of an intense second leg," Klopp said. "We scored two wonderful goals and controlled the game most of the time."
Liverpool tops the Premier League table by two points from second-placed City, who are chasing an English record haul of four trophies in a season. That was placed in jeopardy by Son's 78th minute winner, turning back from the byline and drilling a close-range shot through keeper Ederson.
"As a team we never give up, we fight until 90 minutes. I think we deserved to win, we were more clinical," Son said.
Pep Guardiola's men had been gifted an early chance when Danny Rose, after a video review, was penalised for handling Raheem Sterling's shot. Aguero stepped up but his poor penalty was saved by Hugo Lloris.
Spurs talisman Harry Kane's game ended prematurely when he appeared to go over his ankle blocking a clearance from Fabian Delph.
City laboured but at least return home with a better result than a year ago, when a three-goal first-half blitz by Liverpool at Anfield effectively eliminated them.
"We created chances, more than the penalty … we controlled the game, we did not let them run a lot," Guardiola said.
"The result is not the best one but we have to make these kind of comebacks."