Lionel Messi scored all four goals for Barcelona as the Catalan giants directed Arsenal towards the exit door in the Champions League in devastating fashion.
Messi’s magical masterclass ensured a 6-3 aggregate win for the European champions, yet – for three intoxicating minutes – Arsenal did scent an upset at the Nou Camp.
They led in this quarter-final second leg from the 18th minute when Theo Walcott broke well to set up Nicklas Bendtner, whose first shot was saved before the striker reacted quickest to poke in the loose ball.
Suddenly, there was hope that the Gunners could make it into the semi-finals, but it was swiftly extinguished by the genius of Messi.
The 22-year-old Argentinian capitalised on slack defending by Mikael Silvestre to steer in his first goal from the edge of the area in the 21st minute.
His second came after 37 minutes and his completed a 21-minute hat-trick with the pick of the bunch as he accelerated clear and chipped the ball over the head of Manuel Almunia.
Barcelona were able to ease through a low-key second-half, but Messi still added his fourth goal in the 88th minute, scoring from the rebound after his first shot was saved by Manuel Almunia.
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BARCELONA 4 (Messi 21,37,42,88) ARSENAL 1 (Bendtner 18)
Barcelona (4-2-3-1) Valdes 6; Dani Alves 6, Marquez 5, Milito 6, Abidal 5 (Maxwell 53,5); Busquets 6, Xavi 7; Keita 7, Pedro 7 (Iniesta 86,5), Bojan 6 (Toure 56,5); Messi 10.
Substitutes not used: Pinto, Henry, Fontas, Jeffren.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia 6; Sagna 6, Vermaelen 5, Silvestre 4 (Eboue 63,5), Clichy 5; Denilson 5, Diaby 7; Walcott 5, Nasri 6, Rosicky 5 (Eduardo 73,5); Bendtner 5.
Substitutes not used: Fabianski,Traore, Campbell, Merida, Eastmond.
Arsenal v Tottenham (Away) Premier League, 14/04, 2000 BST
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Lionel Messi (Barcelona): No comment is necessary. Anybdoy who witnessed this astonishing display of world-class finishing from a player who also possesses a marvellous work ethic know that he is one of the greatest players that football has ever produced.