Champions League Betting: Messi Genius Proves Difference Between Barcelona and Liverpool in Semi-Final

Posted on: May 2, 2019, 06:45h. 

Last updated on: May 2, 2019, 06:45h.

Barcelona was the favorite going into last night’s Champions League first-leg semi-final, as is it with every match it plays – especially since the apparent implosion of Real Madrid. But for long spells at Camp Nou on Wednesday, Barca was made to look second best by a Liverpool side set up to press and attack, particularly in the second half.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi a split second before he bent the ball into the top corner to score his second against Liverpool at the Nou Camp on Wednesday. (Image: Reuters)

That the Spanish team ended the match 3-0 winners against the run of play is slightly freakish — a testament to luck, sure, but also to genius.

Lionel Messi’s 600th goal for Barcelona, his second on the night, was a sublime 35-yard free kick, curled deliciously around the wall into the top corner, that left even Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp grinning from ear to ear at the wonder of it all.

“I don’t know if we can play much better,” Klopp told the BBC. “I think it was the best away game in the Champions League — not only this year, last year included.

“I told the boys I’m proud of how we played,” he added. “Against a side like this, playing this kind of football, I was completely happy.

Barca Evens for Champions League Outright

In the second half, Liverpool had more possession than Barca (57.4 percent), made more passes (284 compared to 217) and had more shots on target (four compared to three).

But Messi was the difference between the two teams and the win sees a Barcelona fully in control going into the second leg, while Liverpool will be left to rue its failure to get the precious away goal it deserved.

Barcelona are now evens to win the Champions League for the first time since 2015. Bookies believe Liverpool has left itself with far too big a job to do at Anfield in one week’s time.

While Jurgen Klopp’s men are strong favorites to win the home leg (68/67), they would have to score more than three goals to progress to the final and – even trickier – prevent Barcelona and a certain little maestro from scoring deadly away goals.

Stranger things have happened.

Ajax in Control After Spurs Win

Meanwhile, Spurs have also given themselves a lot to do after losing their semi-final 0-1 at home to tournament wildcards Ajax on Tuesday night.

The Londoners missed their top scorer and captain, Harry Kane, through injury and second-top scorer, Heung-min Son, through suspension, and never quite got going against a sparky Ajax side who are proving their presence in the final four is no fluke.

Despite Son’s return next week, Spurs are 4/1 against turning it around in Amsterdam, while the Dutch side are now just 7/2 to claim the trophy. For a team that began the competition as a 200-1 long shot, that would be the biggest outsider story in Champions League history.