Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scored the first goal of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League group stage on a beautiful free kick. (EFE/Enric Fontcuberta)
Lionel Messi opened the new UEFA Champions League season in style on Tuesday, scoring a hat trick — including one from a stunning free kick — in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven.
Messi first goal was also the first of the 2018-19 competition thanks to a format change that features staggered kickoff times. The curling, left-footed strike came in the 31st minute at the Camp Nou, after Barca’s Ousmane Dembele was hacked down by PSV defender Nick Viergever. Goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet didn’t come anywhere close to stopping Messi’s perfect shot:
Dembele would double the hosts’ lead in the 74th minute, scoring on a brilliant individual play. But Messi — who else? — would add two more goals before the match was over.
Messi’s goals were his 101th, 102nd and 103rd in the Champions League, second only to former Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. He managed just six goals in last season’s tournament. But the hat trick was his eighth all-time, one more than Ronaldo.
Messi and Barcelona are looking to break Spanish rival Real’s three-year stranglehold on the Champions League trophy this season. Ronaldo, who has 120 Champions League goals, left Madrid for Italian titan Juventus earlier this summer. Barca last won Europe’s top club competition in 2015.
Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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