Barcelona celebrated Lionel Messi’s return to the starting lineup by romping Serie A’s Roma for a 6-1 Champions League Group E victory in front of a raucous Camp Nou crowd Tuesday.
The Argentine was sidelined for nearly two months with a left knee injury, and though he entered the Clasico victory over rivals Real Madrid on Saturday, the Catalans were in need of a serious sign that Messi was back to lead them across all competitions.
And Messi didn’t disappoint by pairing his brace with forward Luis Suarez’s in a dominating performance that assured Barcelona first place in the group, and perhaps cast aside any doubts the Catalans could defend last year’s treble.
Messi slotted home his first goal in the 18th minute, and connected his brace in the 59th, while Suarez padded his ever-growing La Liga goal total to 13 with strikes in the 15th and 44th minutes.
Defender Adriano came on for Sergi Roberto in the 64th and converted his goal seven minutes later, and Gerard Pique scored his first goal of the campaign in the the 56th minute.
Barcelona benefitted from a missed offsides call by officials that allowed Dani Alves to scoot a pass to Suarez for an open-net strike past an overwhelmed on-loan goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, with Messi doubling the lead three minutes later by chipping an excellent ball over Szczesny’s head.
Suarez would then provide a stellar volley off a rebound that careened past Roma’s defenders into the bottom left corner of the net, and the Catalans would roll from there.
Roma managed to make the final score at least a bit more respectable with Edin Dzeko's header in the 90th minute.
Roma can still advance to the Round of 16, when they host BATE Borisov on Dec.9, while Barcelona have a road match with Bayer Leverkusen.