2 goals, 2 assists, and a defender on the floor: How Messi one-upped Ronaldo during an elite week of Champions League soccer

Lionel Messi.

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Lionel Messi.
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Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

  • Lionel Messi reminded world soccer who was boss on Wednesday.
  • The FC Barcelona forward scored two goals, created two, and showed off skill so good that it left one Olympique Lyonnais defender on the floor.
  • Barça beat Lyon 5-1 at Camp Nou and booked its place in Friday’s quarter-final draw, just one day after Cristiano Ronaldo attracted headlines for Tuesday’s heroics against Atletico Madrid.
  • For Ronaldo, it was his first excellent game of the European season. But for Messi it was just one of many incredible performances – and that is the difference between the two greats in 2019.
  • Read all of Business Insider’s coverage for the 2018-2019 soccer season right here.

Lionel Messi was at his bamboozling best as FC Barcelona ran rampant over Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday, just one night after Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Juventus from European abyss with an impressive hat-trick.

Even Messi couldn’t help but praise Juve and Ronaldo after Tuesday’s performance. “Cristiano and Juventus were awesome,” the 31-year-old said, according to Goal.com. “It was a big surprise because I thought Atletico would be stronger, but Juventus overcame them and Cristiano had a magical night with three goals.”

But anything Ronaldo the wizard can do, Lionel Messi the archmage can do better. The outrageously-skilled Barça forward cast a spell on the Lyon defence, scored twice, assisted twice, and led his team to a wondrous 5-1 win at Camp Nou in Spain.

It all started in the 17th minute when Barcelona was awarded a penalty, which Messi converted with a panenka kick. It was a move as cheeky as it was confident as the aggregate score of 0-0 meant that any miss could have proved costly should Lyon have gathered momentum. But Messi being Messi, the panenka was successful and Barcelona had its one goal lead – and it did not stop there.

Playmaking midfielder Philippe Coutinho doubled the team’s advantage on the half-hour mark and, though Lucas Tousart pulled one back for Lyon in the 58th minute, Messi restored Barcelona’s two-goal lead 12 minutes before full time.

It was here that Messi emphasized his finesse with the ball. This was the moment his dribbling skills duped two Lyon defenders, with Marcelo falling to the floor and being removed from the play entirely. All Marcelo could do slowly pick himself up from the grass and watch as Messi switched directions on him and teased his shot into the goal.

Watch the goal right here:

Or here if you are in a different region:

But even at 3-1 and with two goals to his name, Messi’s night was not yet over as he went from goalscorer to goal creator when he set up Gerard Pique three minutes later and then Ousmane Dembele just before the final whistle.

Messi scored two goals from seven shots, attempted three dribbles, and provided three key chances (two of which were assists). His 68 pass attempts reflected his all-round game. He was a finisher of goals, a creator of them, and continually looked for ways to affect the scoreline and mercilessly attack Lyon even with the match already won.

There’s a difference between Messi and Ronaldo

Read more: Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly brought Juventus back from the brink of defeat in stunning Champions League win over Atletico Madrid

Ronaldo’s performance, meanwhile, was his greatest in the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League season so far. But aside from an incredible volley scored against his former club Manchester United in the group stages, he had previously been awful when compared to his form in recent years.

Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

At Real Madrid, Ronaldo was the king of Europe thanks to his goalscoring exploits in the knockout rounds, his highlight-reel finishes, and his back-to-back-to-back Champions League title wins in his final three seasons at the club.

But at Juve, Ronaldo’s effectiveness in front of goal had diminished, his overall shot quality had waned, and he looked like an athlete in decline. Even including his hat-trick midweek, Ronaldo’s striking efficiency is down from one goal scored or created every 47 minutes five seasons ago, to every 95 minutes this season.

Read more: 5 charts that show how truly awful Cristiano Ronaldo has been in the Champions League this year

The importance of that hat-trick against Atletico Madrid cannot be understated. Without it, Juventus would have been eliminated from this season’s Champions League for good, and the master plan for 2019 – signing Ronaldo on a $129.3 million deal to help the club conquer Europe – would have been in complete dissarray.

Ronaldo scored two headers and held his nerve to convert a penalty kick into goal to earn a 3-0 win – and he made it look easy. Yes, his exploits in midweek attracted headlines, but Messi ensured that those headlines were only temporary.

For Ronaldo, this was his first excellent performance of the entire European season, but for Messi, it was one of many.