Lionel Messi claimed another goal-scoring record as Barcelona edged a spirited Slavia Prague 2-1 on Wednesday to stay top of Champions League Group F. Messi opened the scoring after three minutes, beating Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar with a low left-footed shot to become the first player ever to score at least once in 15 consecutive Champions League seasons. The 32-year-old Argentinian first robbed midfielder Petr Sevcik outside the Slavia box before an exchange with Arthur put him neatly through the static Slavia defence. Barca earned a second on 57 minutes when Slavia winger Peter Olayinka deflected a Luis Suarez close-range shot from an impossible angle into his own net as the hosts failed to clear Messi's free kick.
Olayinka sealed Barca's sixth straight competitive win but deprived Suarez of a goal that would end his four-year drought in away games in European cup competitions. Before that, left-back Jan Boril equalised for Slavia five minutes after half-time, capitalising on a superb pass threaded by Lukas Masopust that found him one-on-one with goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen. Barcelona top Group F with seven points from three games and are three ahead of Inter Milan who beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0.
Slavia sit at the bottom with a single point. "The result could have been better, but Slavia took risks, they played very well and made us defend a lot," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. "We started very well, we dominated the game, but we also lost the ball a few times and they threatened -- they really made us suffer because when they struggle, they boost their offence and that's exactly what they did today." He added: "We are at the top of the table and we play the next two games at home. They will show us where we are." Commenting on Messi making history, Valverde said: "It is really an incredible record. I hope Leo will continue to do well."
Slavia coach Jindrich Trpisovsky bemoaned Slavia's bad luck with the ugly second goal. "It's a shame to lose with a goal like this," he said. 'Fantastic game' Valverde made two changes from last weekend's 3-0 win at Eibar, calling up Nelson Semedo and Gerard Pique to replace Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto, both sidelined with knee injuries. Jaroslav Zeleny almost grabbed a goal for Slavia on 20 minutes after a superb pass from Boril, but his shot bounced off the feet of a diving ter Stegen.
At the other end of the pitch, Messi curled a free kick into the Slavia box but Clement Lenglet's poke was too weak to surprise Kolar, while minutes later Suarez blasted the ball over the crossbar. Slavia came close again when Zeleny put through Masopust whose low shot was stopped by ter Stegen, and only seconds later the German keeper had a hard time clearing Olayinka's shot over the crossbar.
Kolar then denied Suarez after a fine pass from Messi before kicking out Frenkie de Jong's powerful low attempt from inside the box. Slavia had a third good chance just before half-time, but Lukas Masopust missed narrowly with a low left-footed effort across the goal. "The opening minutes were dreadful, but if I look beyond the first twenty minutes I must say the boys played a fantastic game," said Trpisovsky.
After the break, Slavia midfielder Nicolae Stanciu missed narrowly from long range and skipper Tomas Soucek headed over the crossbar. Messi saw two shots cleared by Kolar and failed to finish into a gaping goal, while Suarez's low shot went just wide. Slavia put the visitors under heavy pressure in the closing minutes but the Barcelona defence did a good job blocking all their shots and ter Stegen stopped Olayinka's stoppage-time header on the line.