By JOHN BOSCHINI
Lionel Messi's case as the best Barcelona player of all time got a little bit stronger with a brace in a 5-0 thrashing of BATE Borisov in Belarus in a UEFA Champions League group match.
The Argentinian captain moved into a tie for second place with Ladislau Kubala on Barcelona's all-time goalscorer list with 194 goals scored for the club. Messi still has 41 goals to go to tie Cesar Rodriguez at the top of the club's goalscoring chart.
Barcelona put the home side under constant pressure from the opening whistle and were rewarded when BATE defender Aliaksandr Volodko turned the ball into his own net in the 19th minute. Pedro extended Barcelona's lead just three minutes later with a a headed goal coming off a David Villa pass.
Messi grabbed his first seven minutes before halftime with a headed goal and the brace was complete in the 55th minute with a hard shot into the roof of the net. Villa rounded off an offensive clinic from the defending champions with a low shot in the 90th minute.
The lopsided victory puts Barcelona top of Group H on goal difference.
In other Wednesday Champions League results:
VALENCIA 1, CHELSEA 1
Frank Lampard answered a chorus of critics with a goal, but Chelsea were forced to settle for a point at Valencia after conceding a late penalty.
A dull first half gave way to a wide-open game after the restart. Chelsea bombarded Valencia's goal and were eventually rewarded with Lampard's bullet from 20 yards out. The goal sparked Valencia's offense into life but it was an inexplicable moment of stupidity that led to the equalizer.
Substitute Salomon Kalou handled the ball inside the area and Roberto Soldado sent Petr Cech the wrong way to earn a point for Valencia.
ARSENAL 2, OLYMPIAKOS 1
Arsenal were far from convincing against the Greek side but came away from the Emirates with a vital three points.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain marked his Champions League debut with a goal in the seventh minute. The 18-year-old slotted the ball into the bottom corner with a well-taken left footed shot. Arsenal doubled their lead just 12 minute later with Andre Santos' goal.
Olympiakos pulled a goal back before halftime but were unable to find an equalizing goal despite typically shoddy defending from Arsene Wenger's back line.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN 2, RACING GENK 0
Bayer Leverkusen are in good position to move on to the knockout rounds with a straightforward dispatch of Racing Genk. Lars Bender scored before halftime for the Germans and former Germany captain Michael Ballack added an insurance goal in injury time.
MARSEILLE 3, BORUSSIA DORTMUND 0
The defending Bundesliga champions are off to a horrid start to their Champions League campaign after being blown out by Marseille. Andre Ayew scored a double and Loic Remy, added one of his own as Marseille moves to the top of Group F.
SHAKHTAR DONETSK 1, APOEL NICOSIA 1
A 1-1 draw with Shaktar puts the Cyprus champions at the top of a weak Group G. Ivan Trickovski scored on the hour mark to give APOEL the lead but Jadson's goal three minutes later salvaged a draw for Shakhtar.
AC MILAN 2, VIKTORIA PIZEN 0
AC Milan made quick work of Czech side Viktoria Pizen with a 2-0 victory. Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally broke through with a penalty seven minutes into the second half and Antonio Cassano added a second to round out the scoring.
ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG 3, FC PORTO 1
FC Porto's slow start continued with a 3-1 defeat to St. Petersburg. James Rodriguez put Porto up early but Roman Shirokov tied the game before halftime. Jorge Fucile was sent off on the stroke of halftime allowing Shirokov and Danny to score on the short-handed Porto.
What did you think of today's results? Impressed with Barcelona? Is it still smooth sailing for Chelsea or do you see trouble for the Blues? Concerned for Arsenal despite the win?
Share your thoughts below.