Ajax slumped to a 4-0 defeat against a strong Barca side which saw Lionel Messi clinched his Champions League goals tally to 62 goals in 79 appearances – only former Real Madrid striker Raúl has more with 71. In another amazing stat, Messi now has 24 hat-tricks for Barcelona in his career so far. So a 4-0 defeat for the Eredivisie champions does not seem that bad.

The Dutch champions started well, stopping Barcelona’s route to the wings by double teaming each Barca attacker and stifling play from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez.

However, on 21 minutes Lerin Duarte conceded a free-kick for a foul on Messi. The new Ajax signing clipped the heels of the Argentine magician, just outside the box. Messi lined the free-kick up and scored his 60th Champions League goal with a glorious shot that cannoned in off the post. Kenneth Vermeer in the Ajax goal could snatch at the air as the set-piece was too good for the Dutch international stopper. The first genuine chance of the match produced the opening goal.

The first-half petered out even though Ajax nearly stole an equaliser on the half-hour mark when Bojan curled a cross deep towards the far post and a diving header from Ricardo van Rhijn forced a smart reaction save from Valdes.

The visitors could have had a penalty when Sigthorsson went to ground under a challenge from Pique. The loose ball was met by Duarte, but he placed his first-time effort straight at Valdes.

Messi got his second ten minutes after the break with an excellent finish from inside the area, before Gerard Pique put gloss on the scoreline with a header from Neymar’s cross on 69 minutes.

Frank de Boer’s Ajax could have had a deserved consolation when Javier Mascherano fouled substitute Thulani Serero in the area but Sigthorsson saw his penalty beaten away by Valdes.

The win marked an emotional Champions League debut for Barca coach Tata Martino, with the win coming just a few days after the death of his father.



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