By JOHN BOSCHINI
Lionel Messi keeps finding ways to top himself.
Messi became the first player to score five goals in a UEFA Champions League game as Barcelona ruthlessly routed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at Camp Nou to advance to the quarterfinals on a 10-2 aggregate.
Messi registered four of his five goals before the hour mark, and youngster Cristian Tello added a brace as a substitute. This was Messi's eighth hat trick of the season including his one for Argentina last week, and he has 48 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season.
Barcelona didn't miss inactive captain Carles Puyol, as Leverkusen only had seven shots, the first six of which were blocked before they reached Victor Valdes. The Spanish keeper could do nothing with Karim Bellarabi's strike in the 90th minute that salvaged something for the German side.
Barcelona wasted no time in banishing any hopes of a German comeback as Messi came out of the blocks firing, with the Spanish giants nursing a 3-1 edge from the first leg. Messi's opener came after just 25 minutes, when Xavi played a perfect through ball in behind Leverkusen's high back line. Messi chipped his shot over Bernd Leno with perfect accuracy. He added a second with a sublime finish just before halftime.
The hat trick was complete five minutes after the restart when he chipped Leno again, this time from a tight angle. The reigning World Player of the Year graciously let Tello get in on the action when the 20-year-old scored just two minutes after entering the match. Messi's fourth came with a fine finish from a very tight angle in the 58th minute after Leno parried a shot into his path, and Tello took advantage of a Leno gaffe four minutes later for his second goal.
Messi inked his name into the record books with five minutes left with another clinical finish, sending Barcelona into the quarterfinals in style.
APOEL NICOSIA 1, LYON 0 (APOEL advances 4-3 on penalties)
Greek goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis played the role of hero, coming up with two saves in a penalty shootout to keep APOEL Nicosia's improbable Champions League run alive.
The Cypriot side entered the second leg trailing by a 1-0 deficit, by Gustavo Manduca gave APOEL the goal they needed to level the tie after just nine minutes with a close-range shot. His aggregate equalizer set the stage for a dramatic, tense affair in front of a frenzied crowd in Cyprus. Lyon had several opportunities to effectively end the game with an away goal but couldn't finish from inside the box.
As the match carried on through extra time, Manduca was sent off in the 115th minute for picking up his second yellow card, but Lyon could not capitalize on the man advantage, sending the tie to a penalty shootout.
Both teams were perfect through the first three rounds of penalties. Argentine striker Lisandro hit the post with Lyon's second attempt, but the shot bounced off Chiotis' back and in to keep Lyon on point.
APOEL stayed perfect through its fourth shot, and Chiotis came up huge on Lyon's fourth and fifth efforts, stuffing Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos with consecutive diving saves to put the underdog of all Champions League underdogs into the quarterfinals.
What do you think of today's results? Running out of superlatives for Messi? Stunned by APOEL Nicosia's UCL run?
Share your thoughts below.