Jurgen Klopp admitted Lionel Messi was “unstoppable” on Wednesday after he left Liverpool needing a miracle to reach the Champions League final.
Luis Suarez poked in against his former club before Messi hit a late double, the second a stunning free-kick for his 600th Barca goal, as his team took a 3-0 lead from a pulsating semi-final first leg ahead of next week’s return at Anfield.
“He’s unstoppable,” said Klopp afterwards. “Obviously we couldn’t defend the free-kick. What a strike. He’s a world-class player but I knew that already. It’s no surprise.”
Klopp could only smile after Messi’s curling shot nestled in the top corner but this result was harsh on his side.
They matched Barcelona in the first half, dominated them early in the second and could still have left with an away goal after Messi’s brilliant brace, only for Mohamed Salah to hit the post.
“I said to the boys I was proud of how we played against a side like this,” Klopp said. “If you lose away it’s not a massive problem as long as you score a goal. That’s our problem tonight – it doesn’t make our life any easier.”
Messi and Suarez did what they have done all season, their tallies now at 47 and 27 goals respectively in all competitions.
It had been a breathtaking contest befitting two of Europe’s most exhilarating teams. The first half was electric, a reel of chances, breaks and blocks, while the second was tense, a tactical battle where Barca dared Liverpool to over-exert.
The comeback will be even tougher for them given Barcelona, with La Liga wrapped up, will surely rest a host of players against Celta Vigo this weekend while Liverpool, a point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, will have to be at full throttle again away at Newcastle on Saturday.
“They can still make us suffer,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde. “The result is good but the tie is open.”