BARCELONA (Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored in his 700th match for Barcelona and also set up goals for Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann as the Catalans beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Wednesday to seal a spot in the Champions League knockout stages as Group F winners.
Messi set up Suarez to put Barca ahead at a packed Camp Nou in the 29th minute before the Uruguayan returned the compliment for the Argentine to establish another Champions League record on his landmark night four minutes later.
Messi’s left-foot strike meant he had scored against a 34th different team in the Champions League, surpassing the mark that he had shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul.
“Messi moves so well between the lines and when he receives the ball he is almost unstoppable,” said Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, whose side struck a late consolation goal through substitute Jadon Sancho.
“Sometimes all you can do is try to foul him because he is so explosive. He is also deadly whenever he makes a final ball.”
Substitute Griezmann finished off a defence-splitting pass from Messi to further stretch Barca’s lead in the 67th minute, a much-needed goal for the Frenchman’s confidence after failing to score in his previous six appearances for the club.
Griezmann had been left out of the starting line-up but came on midway through the first half when his injury-prone compatriot Ousmane Dembele was forced off with a third muscle problem of the campaign.
Dortmund’s England forward Sancho also began the game on the bench but made an impact when introduced after halftime, firing in an impressive consolation strike for the Germans in the 77th minute after pouncing on a loose ball inside the area.
The 19-year-old then forced Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to turn a powerful shot on to the crossbar in a strong finish from the German side, whose coach Favre is under pressure due to the team’s poor domestic results.
But it did not tarnish what was a therapeutic win for Barca, who had come in for scathing criticism for their recent poor displays against Leganes, Levante and Slavia Prague, even though they are top of La Liga and their Champions League group.
Ernesto Valverde’s side lead the standings with 11 points from five games, Inter Milan are second on seven while Dortmund are third, also on seven, with Slavia bottom with two.
“We were in the toughest group in the competition and once again we have qualified for the latter stages with a game to spare,” said Valverde.
“Our first objective was to qualify as group winners but we also wanted to show a real improvement in our play,” added Suarez.
“We relaxed a bit in the second half and hung on to our lead but we should still leave here feeling very happy.”