Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Bayer Leverkusen’s Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez traded goals three ticks apart as the two European powers tangle and head to halftime in Wednesday’s Champions League Group E match at BayArena in Germany.
The Argentine Messi put the Catalans on to in the 20th minute, scooting past Leverkusen’s backline and chasing down a perfect through ball from Ivan Rakitic for a nearly open-net strike and the lead.
But Hernandez, who previously played for Real Madrid, responded in the 23rd minute. Working a counterattack and trying to move to second in the group for a shot at the Round of 16, Hernandez exercised patience inside Barcelona’s box before powering midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu’s assist into the back of the net.
The Catalans, who haven’t tasted defeat over their last 12 matches despite Messi’s two month absence from a serious knee injury, already own the group with 13 points but can gather more wins as they continue to battle rival Madrid for La Liga.
Leverkusen’s desperation is showing in the aggressive tactics during the first 45 minutes. The Bundesliga side’s fired off 10 shots to Barcelona’s four as they try to close out Roma’s three-goal lead and break the logjam in the heart of the group.