Welcome to my new series entitled "Barça Champions League Memories." Every time FC Barcelona has a UEFA Champions League knockout stage match upcoming, I will look back a CL memory from the past.
Today, we will look back at one of Lionel Messi's greatest performances of his career, and it happened in the Champions League knockout stages.
The Time: 2009-10 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, 2nd leg
The season is 2009-10, and Barcelona was seeking to defend its European championship, as El Blaugrana won the crown the previous season (Rome 2009). Barcelona won Group F and easily disposed of Stuttgart in the round of 16.
Up next for Barça was Arsenal.
In the first leg, Barcelona dominated early, with plenty of missed chances for Pep Guardiola's team, as Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia made tremendous stops to deny Barça. But in the 46th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock as a long pass found the feet of Zlatan and with Almunia off his line trying to grab the ball, Zlatan lobbed the ball up and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. In the 59th minute, Zlatan was given too much space by the Arsenal back line and Ibra slammed the ball past a helpless Almunia to make it 2-0. It seemed like it was over for the Gunners. But Theo Walcott brought the home side back with a goal in the 69th minute. With less than six minutes to go in the match, a Carles Puyol foul inside the box led to a penalty given. Cesc Fabregas stepped up and slammed in the 2-2 draw. Cesc hit the ball so hard, he actually cracked a bone in his fibula on the play, and missed the second leg. Despite heading to the Camp Nou with the road goal advantage, Barcelona let a 2-0 lead slip away and Arsenal was very much in the draw.
The Scene: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalunya
The Moment: Messi's Night
The second night leg started off terribly for Barcelona, as a Gabriel Milito turnover led to a Theo Walcott-Nicklaus Bendtner break. Victor Valdes blocked Bendtner's first shot, but his rebound shot put the ball into the back of the net and within 20 minutes, Barcelona was down 0-1 and Arsenal had the 3-2 aggregate lead.
A hero was needed. And Leo Messi answered the call.
Messi responded just three minutes after Arsenal grabbed the lead. A intended through ball from Messi to Xavi was deflected by Samir Nasri then by Mikaël Silvestre. The ball landed at Leo's feet and Messi put in an electrifying goal that sent Almunia flying helplessly. It was arguably one of the loudest moments in recent Camp Nou history. The roar of the fans was deafening. Golazo!
Leo wasn't done; he was just getting started.
Messi's second goal came in the 37th minute, as another Leo through ball was perfectly sent to Eric Abidal whose cross into the middle of the box was blocked by the Arsenal defense. Pedro got to the ball, tapped it to Leo who went around Gael Clichy and slammed it pasted at diving Almunia for the goal. Simply amazing!
The Argentine's hat trick came in the 42nd minute. Rafael Marquez sent a long pass towards Messi. Thomas Vermaelen tried to head the ball away. The ball was deflected and bounced towards Seydou Keita. With Vermaelen out of position, this left Messi with plenty of open space and Keita headed the ball towards Leo. There was nothing Clichy or Silvestre could do, as Leo was speeding towards net. Messi chipped the ball over Almunia for Leo's third goal of the night. A hat trick in less than 43 minutes. Simply Leo!
With the quarterfinal settled, Leo decided to give Arsenal a going-away present. In the 87th minute, terrible Arsenal defending led to Xavi finding a wide-open Messi onside towards net. Messi got past Emmanuel Eboué as well as a reaching Clichy and Vermaelen to shoot towards net. Almunia stopped the first shot, but Leo slapped the ball through the goalkeeper's legs and made a fool of Almunia, the defenders, and all of Arsenal as Messi grabbed his fourth goal. "Super" hat trick Leo!
Final: FC Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (6-3 FCB on agg.)
The Champions League is European football's biggest stage, and on April 6, 2010, Lionel Messi took center stage and put on a show of historic proportions.
It was another year of dominance for Messi, as Leo went on to win the 2010 Ballon d'Or, his second of what turned out to be four in a row.
It was a night Pep's FC Barcelona and "The Golden Era" shined bright once again.
It was a night Leo Messi made magical.
It was a night that no football fan will ever forget.
Watch the highlights of Leo Messi's four-goal night! The commentator is Issam Chawali (also have seen his name as Issam Al Shawali). You've probably heard his voice in various Champions League highlight videos on YouTube. Issam is great and he makes this video even more entertaining. Wish these English-language soccer commentators (U.S., England) were more like Arabic and Latino-American commentators: over-the-top but much more passionate when calling games.
Pep's Barcelona was like PlayStation.
We want to hear your thoughts and memories about watching this match back in 2010. Leave us a comment about Leo Messi's super hat trick against Arsenal in the comments section.