Film Focus: How Lionel Messi Preyed on Joleon Lescott's Inadequacies

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

Mugged off: Joleon Lescott couldn't handle Lionel Messi.
Mugged off: Joleon Lescott couldn't handle Lionel Messi.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Lionel Messi made a mockery of Joleon Lescott all night long, and that was the crucial factor in this Champions League last 16 second-leg tie.

Cast your minds back to the first match at the Etihad, and it was another incompetent City defender doing battle with one of the world’s best that helped decide the match.

Martin Demichelis took down Messi on the edge of the box, and Barcelona were awarded a penalty, with the Argentine sent off.

Another Argentine was dismissed on Wednesday night, in Pablo Zabaleta, but by that time the damage was done and Barcelona were sitting comfortably, ending up 2-1 winners on the night.

It was clear that Lescott against Messi was going to be a mismatch from the third minute of the game.

Messi drifted past the defender near the centre of the pitch, and Lescott had to resort to grabbing him to halt the attack.

Barcelona's creative genius knew from that moment onward that his night was going to be a fruitful one.

Less than 10 minutes later, he should have had a penalty kick, after Lescott tripped him in the area.

Lescott clumsily fouled Messi in the penalty area.
Lescott clumsily fouled Messi in the penalty area.Sky Sports TV

Another bit of quick footwork from Messi and the bumbling centre-back ended up taking him down, but the referee didn't point to the spot, for reasons unknown.

Messi would frequently drop off the front line, sometimes letting Neymar take the centre spot, Lescott found him tricky to deal with too, making one crunching last-resort tackle on him.

Early in the second half Messi nearly opened the scoring, again skinning Lescott and cutting in from the right, firing a shot against the base of Joe Hart's upright.

That was City's and Lescott's last warning.

Cesc Fabregas tried to find Messi with a through ball, but it was a poor pass and Lescott cut it out. At least at first.

Lescott almost seemed confused as the ball found its way between his legs and behind him, where Messi snatched it, drew Hart out of his goal a little and then lofted the ball perfectly over him.

That was 1-0 to Barcelona, 3-0 on aggregate, game over.

Fabregas played a through ball, as Messi ran behind Lescott.
Fabregas played a through ball, as Messi ran behind Lescott.Canal Plus TV

Lescott had no idea where the ball went.
Lescott had no idea where the ball went.Canal Plus TV

Messi lofts the ball past Joe Hart.
Messi lofts the ball past Joe Hart.David Ramos/Getty Images

The Messi we saw on Wednesday night was the real deal. He was significantly better than in some La Liga games lately.

Although he would never admit it, perhaps there is some truth in the idea that he wants to be at optimum fitness at the World Cup and is only really delivering his absolute best in the bigger matches.

Or perhaps it’s this generation of Barcelona, that some have suggested is reaching the end of the line, pulling out the stops when they need to.

Either way, the Blaugrana and Messi were excellent and certainly put talk of their demise on hold.

There’s Sunday’s home game against Osasuna to come, and then El Clasico against Real Madrid.

They will need to put in another strong performance like this to win at the Bernabeu, but at least we know they’re still capable of it.