Lionel Messi was targeted by a laser pen during Barcelona's Champions League quarter-final defeat against Atletico Madrid.
The Argentinian maestro suffered a dismal night at the Vicente Calderon, barely influencing a match the home side could have comfortably won by more than the 1-0 margin that gave them a 2-1 aggregate victory over Barca.
As reported by Reuters and via Yahoo! Eurosport, the legitimacy of the above image is confirmed.
Like many of his team-mates, Messi rued a poor performance in front of rival supporters. He completed just 74 per cent of his passes, down from his season average of 85.3 per cent, while also failing to hit the target from any of his four attempts at goal, per WhoScored.com.
The 26-year-old has enjoyed a return to form recently—netting 11 goals in seven games prior to Wednesday's match—but he was unable to inspire Barca beyond Koke's winner. Messi completed just two dribbles, turned possession over three times and was dispossessed once, leading to a frustrating night for the Blaugrana.
As reported by Andy West of BBC Sport, Messi's lack of ground covered didn't go unnoticed by those in the Spanish media:
Gerardo Martino started Messi on the right of a three-pronged attack, pushing the five-time Ballon d'Or winner away from his usual central position. Tata explained his decision after the match, per Reuters and via Yahoo! Eurosport:
We wanted Messi to be in a position to take on defenders in a one-on-one from the right wing. He did not feature much in the game but he did have those two chances with the header and after great play from Neymar.
This isn't the first time Messi has been targeted by lasers. AC Milan supporters resorted to the same tactics at this stage of the 2012 competition, as reported by Massimo Marioni of the Metro. Although it is difficult to confirm just how much this irritation affects his game, Marioni suggests it "seemed to be enough to distract the Argentine."
Speaking after a similar incident during Chelsea's European tie with Steaua Bucharest in 2013, a UEFA spokesman confirmed that Atletico could face sanctions for the offence, per Sunni Upal of the Daily Mail:
It's very clear, they're [laser pens] not allowed and we don't want to see them. It's common for us to open disciplinary cases for lasers. It depends on what other incidents happen during the game, we put them all together, but a wide range of measures can be taken.
The majority of Atletico supporters created a stunning atmosphere during the all-Spanish showdown, so it would be extremely disappointing to see the entire club punished because of the actions of individuals. Even so, with Messi's game potentially dampened due to the occurrence, some form of reprimand is fair.
UEFA has yet to comment on the incident.
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