Frank Isola: Lionel Messi failed to step up in the biggest games

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s history is that he usually waits until the World Cup to disappear and disappoint. But the diminutive Argentine, who holds the title of World’s Best Footballer, out-did himself over a seven-day span that will haunt him and Barcelona for some time.

In the Catalans’ three biggest matches, Messi failed to score. In fact, he barely made an impact except for the fact that his blow penalty kick in the second half against Chelsea on Tuesday deflated Barcelona and provided the London side with the belief that it would pull off an improbable upset.

Make no mistake about it, Chelsea advanced to the Champions League Final because of grit, determination, luck and a very average Messi.

“We’ve gotten to where we are today thanks to this kid,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. “More than ever I want to thank him for what he’s done for us.”

Guardiola was wise to publicly support Messi, who has in fact elevated Barcelona to the status of world’s top club team. He knows Messi will take a big hit and deservedly so for what unfolded at Camp Nou on Tuesday. Chelsea earned a 2-2 tie, scoring both goals after team captain John Terry foolishly and selfishly, was shown a straight red card late in the first half.

When Terry was sent off, Barcelona was leading 2-0 and making reservations for the Final in Munich. That Chelsea scored during first-half injury time was shocking indeed but not nearly as shocking as what happened early in the second half when Messi had the game on his precious left foot.

Chelsea’s Didier Drogba had tripped Cesc Fabregas in the box and Barcelona was one Messi PK away from almost assuredly advancing. But Messi’s shot smashed off the crossbar and was cleared out of danger. Barcelona spent the next 42 minutes dominating possession and growing increasingly frustrated. Messi even smacked a shot off the post but was unable to find the back of the net.

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