Barcelona sink Liverpool with three deadly strikes in the first leg of the UCL semis
Lionel Messi scored two goals as Barcelona beat Liverpool 3-0 in the first-leg semi-final to edge closer to the Champions League final.
Messi scored his 599th and 600th goals for Barcelona to subdue a Liverpool lineup that had outplayed the hosts for long stretches at Camp Nou on Wednesday, but finally succumbed to the Argentine's mastery.
His double and Luis Suarez's early goal against his former club gave Barcelona a commanding win.
Messi has won the Champions League four times but his hunger to restore Barcelona as the best club team on the continent was evident against Liverpool, when he had to almost single-handedly quash a ferocious comeback attempt by the visitors after Suarez's 26th-minute opener.
Messi doubled the lead from a rebound with 15 minutes left and followed that up by curling in a perfectly struck free kick in the 82nd.
Mohamed Salah nearly scored a valuable away goal for Liverpool to take back to next week's return leg at Anfield when he hit the post late.
"It is not over because we are going to a ground that is very difficult, with lots of history, that presses rivals, but we are happy with today's game," said Messi.
"This is the critical moment, the best moment, and we have to be more united than ever. At the start of the year, we said we would do this together."
Messi's double also took his overall tally for the season to 48 goals and his Champions League-leading tally to 12 this campaign.
It was a bitter loss for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, which is trying to reach consecutive European finals after losing last year's decider to Real Madrid.
Klopp praised his side's performance but he was not optimistic about the likelihood of a miraculous turnaround.