His first goal was a nonchalant, outside-of-the-foot finish. His second was pretty much his trademark – fast feet outside the area and then a precise curler into the corner.
Lionel Messi kept up his stellar pre-World Cup form to help rampant Paris Saint-Germain become one of four teams to advance to the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, along with Chelsea, Benfica and Borussia Dortmund.
That’s more than half of the round of 16 lineup confirmed now – five clubs had already gone through – and PSG will be one of the teams its rivals are looking to avoid, especially with Messi in this mood. Kylian Mbappe, too.
At opposite ends of their careers, the two superstar forwards are tasked with guiding the French champions to a first Champions League title and they both scored twice in a 7-2 thrashing of Maccabi Haifa.
Neymar, the other member of the team’s stellar attacking trident, also scored in a victory that guaranteed PSG a top-two finish alongside Benfica in Group H. Both teams are on 11 points heading into the final round.
Benfica was a 4-3 winner over Juventus, which has failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
With perhaps the best goal of the 33 scored in the next-to-last round of group games, Kai Havertz whipped a long-range shot in off the crossbar to earn Chelsea a 2-1 win at Salzburg and a first-place finish in Group E.
It’s the 18th time in 19 group-stage campaigns that Chelsea, a two-time Champions League winner, has advanced. PSG has done so for 11 straight seasons now but has yet to win European soccer’s biggest prize.
Dortmund joined Manchester City in advancing from Group G after drawing 0-0 with the English champions, who are now sure to finish in first place.
Already-qualified Real Madrid, the defending champion, lost 3-2 at Leipzig and must wait to seal top spot on Group F. Leipzig is on the brink of advancing after moving three points clear of Shakhtar Donetsk, which drew 1-1 at Celtic
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup