Lionel Messi helped himself to four goals as Arsenal's Champions League dream was ended by a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

Nicklas Bendtner had fired the Gunners into a shock lead on 18 minutes. However, Messi soon drew the hosts level after capitalising on a mistake by Mikael Silvestre.

The Argentina forward then added a second from close range before dashing clear to make it 3-1 - and 5-3 on aggregate - just before the break, and grabbed a fourth with three minutes left.

Arsenal snatched a shock lead on their first real chance after 18 minutes. Theo Walcott was put clear by Abou Diaby down the right, and he dashed into the Barca penalty area before squaring to Bendtner. Victor Valdes made a good reaction save, but the in-form Denmark striker was quick to stab the rebound into the net and put Arsenal ahead in the tie for the first time.

The Gunners then wasted another chance of a breakaway, when Diaby pushed the ball left to Bendtner when Walcott was in space on the right.

It proved a costly error as Barcelona went up the other end to equalise on 21 minutes. Neither Silvestre nor Thomas Vermaelen could clear a ball on the edge of the penalty area - and Messi needed no second invitation, lashing his shot into the top right corner.

Arsenal were again punished by Messi for some poor defending as Barcelona went 2-1 ahead on 37 minutes. Eric Abidal crossed the ball into the Arsenal box from the left, which was cut out by Vermaelen. However, his team-mates were slow to react as Pedro knocked the loose ball out to Messi - and he smashed it past Manuel Almunia.

The Argentina international completed a stunning hat-trick four minutes before the break when he latched onto a flick from Abidal to race clear before dispatching a brilliant chip over the Arsenal keeper.

Messi nearly had another at the start of the second half when Pedro whipped a low ball across the Arsenal six-yard box from the right, which was just too far ahead of the Barcelona forward.

And after Maxwell forced Almunia into a good save at his near post after cutting into the right side of the Arsenal penalty area, Messi completed a fine night's work with another well-taken goal three minutes from time as the holders marched on towards Madrid.

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Topics:
#Arsenal
#European News
#Football
#Thomas Vermaelen
#Mikael Silvestre
#Premier League
#Manuel Almunia
#UEFA Champions League
#Vassiriki Abou Diaby
#Nicklas Bendtner
#Theo Walcott