BARCELONA: Lionel Messi ran riot through Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City defence as though it was a playground game, according to Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as he savoured a dazzling 4-0 Champions League win.
Inspired by Messi’s hat-trick, Barcelona joined Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain in registering important wins on Wednesday night.
The Argentine genius was hailed for his composure after a month out with a groin injury.
Before 96,290 people at Camp Nou, Messi picked up on one City mistake on 17 minutes and added two more — one brilliantly curled in — in the second half after City keeper Carlos Bravo was sent off.
“We have seen the calm that Messi has to finish inside the area as if he was in the school yard,” said Enrique.
“If there is anything you can expect of Messi it is that. It doesn’t matter how many days he has been out or the games he has missed.”
Messi was “phenomenal,” added Barcelona defender Samuel Umtitei.
“There will never be anyone like him. It is incredible what he did,” added fellow defender Lucas Digne.
While Guardiola was adamant he would not change his style of pressing from the back, the former Barcelona coach is now under pressure with City second in group C, five points behind leaders Barcelona and just one ahead of Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“Until the last day I am a coach I will try to play from the goalkeeper,” said Guardiola.
“It is always difficult to play in Barcelona with 11 players and with 10 the game was over,” added Guardiola.
“We created enough chances, we arrive at the byline many times, but with their strikers when they arrive they punish you.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said his stars must work on their “humility” after their 6-0 demolition of Ludogorets — with Mesut Ozil also bagging a hattrick — in Group A.
“Let’s not be too quick on the verdict. We have a strong squad and a strong spirit, but you have to take care of it and keep your feet on the ground,” Wenger said.
“In this game a lot is linked with confidence. I feel that at the moment because we win game after game, maybe we get through dodgy periods with less psychological damage.
“The only way to win something big is to focus on the next one and work on humility.”
As well as leading Group A on goal difference ahead of PSG, Arsenal are second in the Premier League level on points with Manchester City. Wenger is anxious however to get Ozil and fellow scorer Alexis Sanchez to sign new contracts.
Bayern Munich also romped to a 4-1 victory over PSV Eindhoven in Group D — recovering some esteem after losing to leaders Atletico Madrid in their last European game and drawing twice in the Bundesliga.
Thomas Mueller, Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben were all on target in what coach Carlo Ancelotti said was the reaction he had expected from the German champions.
“The attitude was good, we learnt our lessons from Frankfurt,” said the Italian, who had won his first eight games in charge before the Madrid defeat.
“We played well, but we have to give our best in the next few games to make sure we play Atletico for first place,” warned Ancelotti whose team travel to PSV in two weeks.
Paris Saint Germain beat Basel 3-0 to stay on course to qualify from Group A with Arsenal.
Angel Di Maria, Lucas and Edinson Cavani gave PSG an ultimately comfortable victory but coach Unai Emery was not 100 percent happy.
“The first half was not good. That’s true. We were saved by the posts but we scored, and at 1-0 the match opened up for us and we had chances,” said Emery.
PSG “need to work to improve,” added the Spaniard whose side have also struggled in Ligue 1 this season.