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Messi inspires Barcelona as Bayern cruise to semi-finals

ESPN staff
April 10, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Alves predicts that his side will draw Real Madrid in the next round

Lionel Messi came off the bench to help Barcelona fight back against Paris Saint-Germain and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Argentinian was an injury doubt for the fixture, but after PSG led through Javier Pastore, the Parisians missed their opportunity as Messi sparked the Barca revival as the Catalans progressed on away goals after drawing 3-3 on aggregate, and became the first side to reach the semi-finals of the competition for six seasons in a row.

Bayern Munich meanwhile strolled into the last-four after seeing off Juventus 4-0 on aggregate with consummate ease.

Bayern were in a comfortable situation of leading 2-0 from the first leg, but Mario Mandzukic put the contest beyond any doubt by giving the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions the lead in the second half to kill off any hopes Juventus had of staging a comeback, and Claudio Pizarro put the icing on the cake by netting in the first minute of stoppage time.

All the talk before Barcelona's match against Paris Saint-Germain was whether Messi would start, and the visitors were relieved to see the Argentinian not named in the starting line-up.

PSG were positive with their play and caused plenty of problems to the Barca defence, and had it not been for Victor Valdes they would have been trailing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic fed in Ezequiel Lavezzi, and he was thwarted by the legs of Valdes as Barca did not begin the match well.

Lucas was the driving force for the visitors by making dangerous runs both on and off the ball, and as Barca struggled to create any decent opportunities PSG grew in confidence. Much of the Camp Nou crowd were up from their seats when they thought Xavi had scored from a free-kick, instead the effort rippling the outside of the net.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti would have been delighted with the performance of his players in the first half, and he was jumping with joy five minutes into the second half as Pastore fired PSG into the lead. Ibrahimovic split the high Barca defence, and Pastore with a left-footed finish beat Valdes to hand his side the advantage in the tie.

The time arrived for Tito Vilanova to play his ace in the pack, and Messi received the call to try and turn the game around.

And the greatest player of his generation did exactly that, setting the move for the equalising goal by feeding in David Villa, who in turn produced a fine lay-off for Pedro, with the Spaniard expertly finishing to bring Barca on level terms, and they held on to squeeze through on away goals.

Bayern Munich will be tough opposition in the semi-finals of the competition © Getty Images
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Bayern Munich are determined to make amends for last year's loss in the final on home soil as they swept past Juventus to reach the semi-finals, winning 2-0 on the night.

Juventus kept Bayern on their toes in the opening stages, with Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio coming close.

Bayern were denied the early breakthrough when Mandzukic almost finished off a well-worked move involving Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, with a saving tackle from Simone Padoin keeping the score goalless.

Bayern were threatening to add to their aggregate tally, and Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Alaba tested the palms of Gianluigi Buffon. Down the other end, Andrea Pirlo forced an excellent save from Manuel Neuer.

However, Mandzukic silenced the Juventus crowd, and with it forged a clear path for Bayern to reach the semi-finals. Pizarro got on the score sheet late on to compound Juventus' misery and complete a solid display from the German champions.

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