London | Lionel Messi left Arsenal spellbound as the Barcelona striker’s clinical double sealed a 2-0 first leg victory that put the Champions League holders firmly on course for the quarter-finals.
Barca coach Luis Enrique joked this week that all he needed to do was shout ‘Abracadabra’ for Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to deliver the kind of magic display that would bewilder the Gunners.
On this occasion, it was Messi who answered his coach’s call with a second-half brace as the Spanish champions survived a stern examination from Arsene Wenger’s side to escape the Emirates Stadium with a result likely to condemn the hosts to a sixth successive last-16 exit.
The leaders of La Liga, chasing a sixth European Cup triumph, are now unbeaten in 33 games in all competitions — a blistering streak that includes 14 wins from their last 15 games.
After being dazzled by Messi’s magic wand, it will take an act of astonishing escapology for Arsenal to go through in the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 16.
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