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Antonio Conte hailed the impact of Lionel Messi as the Argentine inspired Barcelona to knock Chelsea out of the Champions League.

Barca won 3-0 on the night, going through 4-1 on aggregate after the two sides drew in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Messi scored at the Bridge to rescue a draw for his club, and the five-time Ballon D’Or winner picked up where he left off when he gave Barca the lead inside three minutes at the Nou Camp. 

He then turned provider on 20 minutes for Ousmane Dembele who finished powerfully to put the hosts in control, after Messi dispossessed Cesc Fabregas in a dangerous position.

Chelsea competed throughout and they were unlucky not to pull a goal back just before half-time when Marcos Alonso’s brilliant free-kick struck the post with Marc-Andre ter Stegen beaten all ends up.

The Blues came out fighting after the break and could have had penalty when Alonso was tripped by Gerard Pique but the referee was unmoved.

But then Messi put the tie beyond any doubt with a menacing run before drilling the ball through Thibaut Courtois’ legs.

And Conte said he was proud of the effort of his players, insisting Messi was the difference between the two sides over the two legs.  

Conte said: “I think tonight and across the two legs, I think Messi made the difference.

“As you know very well we are talking about the best player in the world.

“I think over the two legs we were a bit unlucky because we hit the post four times and in our best moment they scored, they were very, very clinical tonight. I think we created many chances but we didn’t take them.

“We are talking about a player that every season, finishes every season with 60 goals.

“We are not talking about a top player, but a super top player.

“He made the difference but at the same time we have no regrets. I’m very proud of my players because they gave everything tonight and maybe we didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.”

Messi’s first goal came about in surprising fashion after he beat Courtois at his near post from an acute angle, and the Belgian accepted he should have performed better. 

Courtois said: “I didn’t expect Messi to shoot from there and I was too late to close my legs so that was a mistake on my part.

“It’s not nice to start an evening like that.

“For a goalkeeper like me from two metres, it’s my weakest point between my legs. Even if I’m standing in a normal position there’s a lot of space in between.

“It’s annoying but I don’t think I have to hide inside. I have to come out and be a man and show you made a mistake and move on.

“I made some good saves as well, but it’s unlucky to go out to four goals where we made four mistakes.”


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