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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

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End of a century: Lionel Messi breaks clear of Viktoria Plzen's Petr Jiracek during Barcelona's 4-0 win over the Czech team in the Champions League in Prague on Tuesday. AP

Messi scores 200th goal as Barcelona reaches knockout phase


LONDON — Lionel Messi broke the 200-goal barrier for Barcelona on Tuesday with a hat trick in a 4-0 rout of Viktoria Plzen that put the defending champion into the Champions League knockout phase along with AC Milan.

Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot and netted in stoppage time at the end of each half to take his Barcelona tally to 202 goals.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola called Messi "a phenomenal player."

"At 24, he has broken so many records," he added.

Cesc Fabregas headed in the third as Barca went two points ahead of Milan in Group H.

The Italian champions qualified despite Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal being canceled out by Renan Bressan's penalty kick in a 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov.

Group F leader Arsenal missed out on qualifying with two games to spare after drawing 0-0 with Marseille. Borussia Dortmund climbed off bottom place with a 1-0 victory over Olympiakos.

Chelsea extended its Group E lead to two points despite being held 1-1 at Genk as second-place Bayer Leverkusen lost 3-1 at Valencia.

APOEL retained its surprise lead of Group G by beating FC Porto 2-1, staying a point ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg, which beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0.

Barcelona's status as Europe's most formidable force remains unchallenged, having outscored opponents 26-0 in its last nine matches.

The first in Prague came after 24 minutes when Messi slotted a penalty into the bottom left of the net after being brought down by Marian Cisovsky, who was sent off.

The second was more clinical, dispatching the ball past goalkeeper Roman Pavlik after a one-two with Adriano finished another flowing move by the Spanish champions.

Messi's fourth hat trick of the season — taking his tally to 22 goals in 17 games — was completed with almost the final touch of the game, after being played in by Gerard Pique's neat backheel.

Fabregas' downward header from Isaac Cuenca's cross came in the 72nd after being left unguarded close to goal.

Victor Valdes went a ninth game without conceding, allowing the goalkeeper to break Barcelona's record for minutes without being beaten, going to 869 to beat Miguel Reina's tally of 824 from the 1972-73 season.

Barcelona is two points ahead of Milan, which escaped Belarus with a draw after a sloppy performance.

Ibrahimovic put Milan ahead in the 20th, striking the ball into the bottom corner of the net after latching onto Robinho's cross. But Ignazio Abate gave away a penalty, which Bressan converted 10 minutes into the second half.

"We made a lot of mistakes, and when you do that then it can happen that you concede a goal or penalty," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "It's normal that you have to be more clinical in finishing a game off, but we didn't do that."

Arsenal struggled to create any dangerous chances against Marseille with Robin van Persie, who scored a hat trick at Chelsea on Saturday, only making a late appearance.

Kevin Grosskreutz scored the only goal against Olympiakos in Dortmund after seven minutes to keep the German side in contention, collecting a pass from Mario Goetze to drill home from 20 meters.

In Belgium, Chelsea went a third game in all competitions without a win. Ramires put Chelsea in front after being set up by Fernando Torres, but David Luiz missed a penalty kick at the end of the first half and Genk striker Jelle Vossen equalized after the break.

Valencia kept alive its hopes of advancing from Chelsea's group as striker Jonas scored the second-fastest goal in Champions League history after 10 seconds.

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