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Messi hits four for superb Barcelona

Lionel Messi scored all four goals in a stunning performance as Barcelona thrashed Arsenal 4-1 at the Nou Camp.
Lionel Messi scored all four goals in a stunning performance as Barcelona thrashed Arsenal 4-1 at the Nou Camp.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lionel Messi scores all four goals as Barcelona thrash Arsenal 4-1 at the Nou Camp
  • Arsenal take the lead through Nicklas Bendtner before Barcelona fight back
  • The result sees holders Barcelona through to the semifinals 6-3 on aggregate

(CNN) -- Lionel Messi produced a performance of stunning brilliance, scoring all four goals as holders Barcelona beat Arsenal 4-1 to reach the semifinals of the Champions League 6-3 on aggregate on Tuesday.

Messi turned on the style in the Nou Camp with one of the most devastating individual displays the competition has ever seen, as an injury-ravaged Arsenal side were torn apart.

The match started started brightly for the Londoners who actually took a shock 18th-minute lead.

Theo Walcott's pace had troubled Barca in the 2-2 first leg at The Emirates and the England winger created the opener with a break down the right.

His pass inside for Nicklas Bendtner was a poor one, but somehow the Dane managed to pounce at the second attempt to stab his shot past Victor Valdes in the Barca goal.

Arsenal's lead lasted barely three minutes before Messi began his one-man show. Mickael Silvestre failed to clear the ball on the edge of the area and it fell to Messi, who curled home a superb equalizer.

Messi added his and Barca's second on 37 minutes. Eric Abidal's cross from the right was cut out by Thomas Vermaelen.

However, the rest of the Arsenal defense were slow to react and Pedro found Messi, who smashed his shot past Manuel Almunia.

I believe that we lost against a team that is better than us and have the best player in the world.
--Arsene Wenger

The striker completed his stunning hat-trick four minutes before the break when he raced onto a header from Abidal to sprint clear of the Arsenal defense before superbly chipping the ball over Almunia.

By now, Arsenal needed two goals to go through and, in truth, they never looked likely to get them.

Bendtner struck the post with a fierce header from Gael Clichy's cross, but he was flagged offside, and Tomas Rosicky fired over the bar when in a great position.

Messi completed the job three minutes from time, beating two defender on the left hand side of the area before firing the ball through Almunia's legs.

The result means Barcelona will now face Italian champions Inter Milan, who they were drawn against in the group stages, in a mouth-watering semifinal clash.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for Messi's performance. "For me, he is the best player in the world, and by a distance," he told Sky Sports.

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"When he's in the game, he's really dangerous. Once he is on the run with the ball, he is unstoppable.

The Frenchman added: "I believe that we lost against a team that is better than us and have the best player in the world."