Barcelona star Lionel Messi has left plenty of football fans scratching their heads following comments made in the wake of his team’s 2-0 win over Arsenal in midweek, claiming he “played as a substitute.”
As reported by Sport, Ecodiario quoted Messi uttering the line to Luis Suarez after the game, in which he started and scored two goals for the Blaugrana. However, it’s not quite clear what the Argentina international meant.
Here’s a look at the comments made by Messi, in Spanish, after the game, per El Chiringuito TV:
El Chiringuito TV @elchiringuitotv
¡OJO! ¿Qué quiso decir Messi con esta FRASE tras el final del partido? El VÍDEO #JUGONES https://t.co/XcctenVkYM2/24/2016, 2:42:32 PM
“A ‘steady-cam’ captured a few words from the Barca No.10 as he shared a joke about his supposed ‘absence’ during a good part of the game,” claimed Sport. “…He was presumably making a comment in regards to his late goals in the tie.”
Indeed, it was only late in the match that Messi came to life. While he was typically neat and tidy in all aspects of his play, for long spells Neymar and Suarez looked the most likely to break the deadlock.
Yet Messi was able to superbly finish off a counter-attack in the 71st minute after excellent work from his fellow attackers, before he won and then scored a penalty seven minutes from time. It was a contribution that essentially puts an end to the tie and all but secures Barcelona’s spot in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Here’s a look at the superb first goal, which paved the way for a fine win for the Catalan outfit, per BT Sport Football:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
.@LuisSuarez9 to @neymarjr to Messi! The Argentine finishes off a swift counter as @FCBarcelona beat #AFC. ⚽️ #UCL https://t.co/LOVihUMCmK2/24/2016, 7:30:07 AM
Arsenal did well to contain Messi and his fellow attackers for significant portions, with Nacho Monreal doing a fine job at left-back. However, as the game disintegrated from a tactical clash into a frantic contest in the latter stages, it freed up space for both sides and, crucially, the diminutive genius.
That was clear in the opening goal, as Messi had time in the box to make the finish look easy. However, the touch to sit Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech down, followed by a composed effort, was poetry in motion from the forward.
As noted by OptaJavier, getting one past Cech has been a long time coming for Messi, having previously been thwarted by the goalkeeper in clashes against Chelsea:
15 - Lionel Messi needed 15 attempts and 546 minutes to score for the first time against Petr Cech (6 saved, 8 deflected). Brace2/23/2016, 10:05:07 PM
That Messi sparkled late on—as a “substitute,” as he might say—is no surprise, though. While Arsenal were able to match Barcelona for stints in the match, as soon as the intensity levels of the opposition side drop off the tiniest amount, the European champions, and especially their talisman, pounce.
It’s been evident already this season—the Blaugrana scored four times in the last 15 minutes against Celta Vigo in their recent 6-1 win in La Liga. So while nullifying Messi’s influence for portions of games is doable, how to shut him down—as well as Neymar and Suarez—for an entire 90 minutes is a puzzle yet to be solved.