Lionel Messi full of praise for Manchester City star

Hart dives in bravely to deny Messi. (©GettyImages)

When arguably the greatest footballer to have lived labels you a phenomenon you can be quite proud of your display, but for Joe Hart even the kindest of words from the Barcelona star will fail to ease the pain of another Champions League exit.

Manchester City were knocked out by Barcelona for a second season in succession following a 3-1 aggregate loss, but it could have been so much worse had it not been for the heroics of Hart.

The City goalkeeper saved a late Messi penalty in the first leg and produced one of the best displays of his career to ensure his team only lost 1-0 in last night's second leg.

Manchester City out

While defeat cost City a place in a first ever Champions League quarter final, things could, and perhaps should, have been so much worse for Manuel Pellegrini's side.

It took a total of ten saves from Hart to keep the score down at the Nou Camp, and had it not been for his expert display in goal City would be reflecting on complete humiliation as well as Champions League elimination.

Messi, who continuously finds new ways to outwits opposition goalkeepers, was certainly impressed by the England number one and was full of praise, telling "Joe Hart is a phenomenon."

Messi praise

Barcelona's Argentine star was the architect behind the only goal of the same, setting up Ivan Rakitic with a delightful cross-field pass, but he'll be disappointed not to have got on the score sheet himself over the two-legged affair.

That he didn't score is largely down to the brilliance of Hart, and Messi continued his praise, saying: "Joe Hart had an absolutely fantastic game.

"I already knew he was a top keeper but it was impressive in this performance how he just stopped everything that came his way, with either his hands or his body – he is a phenomenon."

Barcelona progress

Had City been more effective in attack, Hart's display may have been more meaningful, but Messi was relieved his Barca side weren't made to pay the ultimate price for Hart's outstanding performance.

"The fortunate thing, given all that, was we managed to get through the tie, which was all we wanted, so that we could be in Friday's quarter-final draw," he said.

"The team made so, so many chances but we weren't able to put them away – most of which was down to City's great keeper. But we got through after a great game."

Continued praise

It wasn't just Messi who was full of praise for Hart, with Barca boss Luis Enrique telling reporters: "The score could have been a rout. Hart was incredible.

"We had a lot of chances, which is not normal in this type of game. We deserved to win by a bigger goal difference."

Former England striker and one-time Barcelona star Gary Lineker also got in on the act, tweeting: "But for a truly astonishing display of goalkeeping from Joe Hart, our Premier League champions would be going home humiliated."

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