Berlin, 17 April 2019 (MIA/dpa) – Lionel Messi scored a brace as Barcelona strolled past Manchester United into the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in four years while Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal did not rescue Juventus against giant-killing Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday night.
Messi’s first-half goals and Philippe Coutinho’s effort helped Barca to a 3-0 victory on the night and 4-0 overall over United.
The return of United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the Nou Camp, where he scored a last-gasp 2-1 over Bayern Munich in the 1999 final, brought no new joy as United were unable to produce another upset after ousting Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round.
Like in the first leg, Ronaldo headed Juve ahead but his team of a sixth personal title was ended by Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt as Ajax won 2-1 on the day and 3-2 from both games.
The Dutch four-time champions have now ousted both 2018 finalists, after stunning three-time reigning champions Real Madrid in the last 16, to reach the last four for the first time in 22 years.
“We are not afraid of anyone,” De Ligt said on Sky TV, and Van de Beek told broadcasters Veronica: “This is huge. No one will forget this night.”
In the last four, Ajax play the winner of the English duel between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, while Barca face Porto or Liverpool.
The semi-finals are April 30/May 1 and May 7/8, ahead of the June 1 final in Madrid’ Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Barca are among the last four for the first time since 2015, when they went on to win the trophy a fifth time, as they ended their quarter-final curse.
They survived an early scare when Marcus Rashford fired onto the top of the bar with less than a minute elapsed while being denied a penalty via video refereeing a few minutes later.
But Barca were on top in the 16th when United lost the ball in their half. Messi ran past two defenders and curled into the bottom left corner from just outside the area.
The goal gave Barca stability after a nervous start and four minutes later goalkeeper David de Gea let Messi’s tame shot slip under his body and into the net for 2-0 and Messi’s 110th goal of the competition.
Messi narrowly missed a hat-trick shortly after the restart and with a bicycle kick in the 64th but in-between Coutinho had found the top right corner from long range for Barca’s third.
“We were spectacular. We were cold and nervious at the start of the game but after that we took control and played some spectacular football,” Messi told BeIN Sport. “It’s another little step towards our goal.”
United midfielder Jesse Lingard told BT Sport: “We dominated for the first 15 minutes, we had chances and the game could have been different. Lionel Messi brought his A-game tonight, he’s one of the best in the world.”
In Turin, Juve were on top in the 28th from their talisman when Ronaldo nodded home off a corner kick, and his 126th goal in the competition after a video review.
But Ajax were level six minutes later. Van de Beek controlled what appeared to be an attempted shot and kept his cool this time around by slotting into the bottom right corner.
Ajax however showed their class after the break just as in their recent 4-1 in Madrid.
Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made a great save against Hakim Ziyech in the 52nd and also tipped Van de Beek’s shot over the bar, before being left without a chance against de Ligt’s header off a corner-kick in the 67th.
The Dutch had a stunning third from Ziyech disallowed by VAR for offside but held on for their first-ever victory in Turin as Juve had a late penalty appeal turned down in the same way and Ronaldo will not feature in the semis for the first time in nine years.