A sensational Lionel Messi scored a hat trick as 10-man Barcelona beat 10-man Manchester City 4-0 to take firm control of their Champions League group at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner struck in the 17th, 61st and 69th minute — the final two after Claudio Bravo was sent off — to bestow Barca with a satisfying win in former manager Pep Guardiola’s first meeting with the Blaugrana as City boss.
And it was Messi who opened the scoring just after the quarter-hour mark with a cool finish past former Barcelona goalkeeper Bravo.
The Argentine superstar started the move after picking up the ball from Kolarov and playing forward to Andres Iniesta, whose blocked cut-back — aided by a Fernandinho slip in the box — eventually fell to an onrushing Messi who faked a first-time shot, took a pair of touches to round a fallen Bravo and slotted into an empty net with his left foot.
The goal was the 100th scored by the attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar throughout all competitions in 2016.
Ivan Rakitic nearly doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, but his free header of a Messi free kick looped over Bravo’s goal.
Ilkay Gundogan forced a fine close-range save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen on 38 minutes and John Stones’ header flashed wide in the 45th.
Suarez then was thwarted by Bravo moments later after being played in on goal by Messi — the Chile international saving and then clearing his stabbed shot and subsequent rebound under pressure as the game went into the break.
Man City were a man down eight minutes after the break when Bravo’s clearance of a long through ball went straight at a nearby Suarez, whose shot toward goal was handled by the Chilean yards outside of his own box.
Bravo was shown a straight red for the action, and was replaced by Willy Caballero in goal.
And Messi pounced with his second soon after — the Barca No. 10 receiving a pass just outside the semi-circle, cutting inside on his left foot and beating Caballero at the near post with a well-laced strike.
Messi then had his hat trick eight minutes later thanks to a breakdown at the back that left Suarez alone on the left of the box before squaring for his teammate to guide in.
First-half substitute Jeremy Mathieu was given a second yellow in the 74th minute for a sliding tackle on Raheem Sterling, evening the sides at 10 men apiece.
Messi won a penalty minutes before full-time after weaving through the Man City defence. But Neymar’s subsequent spot-kick was saved by Caballero to keep the scoreline 3-0.
However the Brazilian got his goal moments later, curling around Caballero from inside the box after dribbling through the City defence.
The win gives Barca nine points from three matches, while the loss keeps City on four.
It wasn’t all good news for Barcelona, however, as Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique were forced off prematurely with injuries.