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Friday, March 19, 2010

Messi magic sends Barca through

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi put defending champion Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League with two goals and assist in a 4-0 rout of Stuttgart on Wednesday night, then received some lofty praise.

News photo
Tough night: Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann reacts after Barcelona's third goal in their Champions League match on Wednesday night at Nou Camp. Barcelona won 4-0. AP PHOTO

"He was so decisive," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "Every great has a tendency to influence his team, like (Michael) Jordan with the Bulls. He's the best. We wouldn't trade him for anybody."

Pedro Rodriguez and Bojan Krkic also got goals for Barcelona, which won 5-1 on aggregate.

Stuttgart coach Christian Gross concluded Messi was the difference.

"With reason he's the best player in the world," Gross said. "His ability is incredible when you consider his age. I think it's fair to compare him to (Diego) Maradona."

Bordeaux beat Olympiakos 2-1 for a 3-1 aggregate win, reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 1988. Yoann Gourcuff and Marouane Chamakh scored to overcome Kostas Mitroglou's goal for the visitors.

Arsenal, Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Inter Milan, Lyon and Manchester United also are in Friday's draw. Two French clubs reached the quarterfinals for the first time since Lyon and Monaco in 2004.

"You can think that because of the teams now qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals and those doing well in the Europa League, that this proves that French football is in good shape," Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said. "But to affirm this, we will have to see how this develops over time to see if this can happen again, and to see how regularly French teams get through to the quarterfinals."

Coming off a three-goal game Sunday against Valencia in the Spanish League, Messi put the Spanish champions ahead in the 13th minute with a rising shot that beat goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Messi made it 3-0 in the 60th with his 31st goal of the season in all competitions.

"We started the game well but we couldn't stop Messi in the decisive moments," Gross said.

Rodriguez scored off Yaya Toure's pass in the 22nd minute, ending a streak of seven straight Barcelona goals scored by Messi. Krkic got the final goal on a breakaway off a feed from second-half sub Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 89th, one minute after Krkic replaced Andres Iniesta.

Barcelona has won nine straight home games over German opponents dating to 1998. It won without injured midfielder Xavi Hernandez.

"We were very, very intense in all facets, very aggressive," Guardiola said. "We played a great game."

At Bordeaux, Gourcuff scored his first goal in 11 games when he curled a shot over goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis in the fifth minute. Mitroglou tied the score in the 65th, two minutes after entering, with a dipping shot that surprised goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso. Chamakh got the go-ahead goal in the 88th.

Olympiakos forward Matt Derbyshire was ejected in the 60th minute for his second yellow card, for a foul on Jaroslav Plasil. Bordeaux midfielder Alou Diarra was sent off in the 68th minute after a late tackle.



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