Sunday, July 27, 2008

Messi grabs hat trick

Craig Levein's men took the lead through Prince Buaben before Thierry Henry restored parity for the Catalan giants.

Messi then transformed the game when he was introduced as a second-half substitute and netted three goals, with out-of-favour Samuel Eto'o also adding his name to the scoresheet.

While Barcelona were ahead with just five minutes on the clock as they racked up a 6-0 win against Hibernian at Murrayfield earlier this week, it was United who carved out a couple of decent chances early on at Tannadice.

Warren Feeney - who joined on loan from Cardiff in June - was involved in most of their best moves and could have snatched the opener with just six minutes gone. Buaben's cross found Jon Daly who slipped the ball through to Feeney, but the offside flag was raised before he could unleash the shot.

The Northern Ireland international then saw a close-range header smothered on the line by goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Henry should have opened the scoring when he collected a long ball from Martin Caceres in plenty of space out on the left and looked certain to leave the net bulging with only the keeper to beat but somehow managed to fire over the crossbar.

Instead, it was United who surged into the lead much to the delight of the home crowd after 25 minutes. Caceres should have cleared the danger but allowed Scott Robertson to pick out Feeney, whose cross from the left set up Buaben to direct a firm header past Valdes.

The celebrations were short-lived when Barca levelled within 60 seconds. Darren Dods failed to clear his lines and a Daniel Alves cross found Henry, who saw his first attempt blocked by Lukasz Zaluska before converting the rebound.

Henry then fluffed a shot in front of goal after being set up by Bojan Krkic, before Bojan himself was denied by an excellent save from Zaluska at the near post. An Eidur Gudjohnsen header off the upright proved to be the last real chance of the first half.

United had been spared the lethal skills of Messi - who did enough in 45 minutes to earn the man of the match award against Hibs - until the second half when he was thrown into the action as one of nine changes, with only Alves, Caceres and Victor Sanchez remaining from the original line-up.

The home side made just one replacement at the break, Zaluska withdrawn for reserve keeper Michael McGovern, and he was left plucking the ball out of the net nine minutes after the restart when Messi pounced on an Eto'o through-ball and sent an angled drive home.

Eto'o was then gifted a goal of his own after 61 minutes thanks to a blunder by substitute Andis Shala just moments after he was thrown into the action, his poor passback landing at the feet of the Cameroon striker and begging to be stroked into the back of the net.

The fourth goal arrived with 14 minutes to go with Eto'o and Messi exchanging a one-two before Messi produced an acrobatic finish from close range. He then completed his hat-trick two minutes later when the rebound from a blocked Eto'o effort landed at his feet and Lee Wilkie failed to clear the danger on the line.

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