Lionel Messi masterful as Barcelona punish short-handed Spurs at ragged Wembley
LONDON -- Three points from Wembley on Barcelona's 4-2 win over Tottenham in Group B of the Champions League.
1. Majestic Messi leaves Spurs with steep mountain to climb
Lionel Messi produced his latest breathtaking performance for Barcelona at Wembley to leave Tottenham with a Champions League mountain to climb in Group B after Maurucio Pochettino's team suffered a second successive defeat in the competition.
The Argentine made one and scored another two in a 4-2 win at the venue of the club's 1992 and 2011 Champions League final victories -- a win which leaves Spurs rock bottom of the group ahead of a pivotal back-to-back against PSV Eindhoven.
With Spurs travelling to Camp Nou for their final group game in December, anything but two victories in those games, and another win at home to Inter Milan, would leave them needing to win in Barcelona to have any hope of making it into the round of 16.
But although second-half strikes from Harry Kane and Erik Lamela gave Spurs hope of salvaging something from this game, Barcelona held on for the victory.
Spurs, quite simply, paid the price for their slow start which enabled Philippe Coutinho to put the visitors ahead inside two minutes.
Ivan Rakitic doubled their lead on 28 minutes and Spurs found themselves at the mercy of Messi, who struck the post twice before scoring a third after Kane had cut the deficit in half for Spurs.
Messi's second goal was a stunner, which epitomised his performance, with the Argentine stroking the ball home at the near post after neat build-up play by Coutinho and Luis Suarez.
But this was another harsh lesson for Tottenham in Europe, following the recent defeat against Inter and last season's elimination at the hands of Juventus.
Spurs keep suffering these setbacks, but the time is coming for them to put the lessons into practice.
2. Wembley pitch problems sum up current state of Spurs
It is only the first week of October, but the threadbare pitch at Wembley summed up Tottenham after less than two months of competitive action this season.
Mauricio Pochettino's players are struggling and they looked in need of a break as Barcelona dominated from the start at Wembley.
With the central third of the pitch yellow and bare thanks to the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin world heavyweight title fight which was staged at the stadium 10 days ago, it seemed the perfect metaphor for the state of Pochettino's team at present.
Both the pitch and the players have been overused and some kind of recovery is needed to turn the situation around.
Tottenham's fatigue is largely down to the World Cup exertions of many of Pochettino's players, but also a result of the lack of new additions during the summer.
And that failure to invest bit hard against Barca, with key men such as Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Dembele all missing and Pochettino unable to call on anything like their quality as replacements.
It was a testament to Tottenham's character that they twice scored goals through Harry Kane and Erik Lamela to give themselves hope of an unlikely draw, but Barca were always deservedly one step ahead.
3. Suarez's road drought goes on but he makes his mark
Considering his well-earned reputation as one of the world's most feared strikers, it is almost inexplicable that Luis Suarez has now gone more than three years without an away goal in the Champions League.
The last time the Uruguayan was on the Champions League scoresheet away from Camp Nou was against Roma in the Stadio Olimpico back in Sept. 2015 and he walked off the Wembley turf having failed to end that barren run.
Suarez also scored just once in this competition last season, but although the statistics are pretty damning, it is too soon to write the former Liverpool man off as a has-been on the highest stage.
He may not have scored at Wembley, but he did everything else and he certainly made his presence felt in Barcelona's victory.
Suarez made himself a nuisance all night, chasing lost causes, barging defenders off the ball and creating space for his teammates.
Ivan Rakitic scored Barca's second in the first half after Suarez had pulled the Spurs defence out of position to latch onto Lionel Messi's cross, while Messi netted the third after a clever dummy by Suarez at the near post.
And when Messi made it 4-2 in the 90th minute, it was Suarez once again whose dummy created space for Barcelona's No.10 to score.
Perhaps he is becoming to Barcelona what Karim Benzema is for Real Madrid -- a tireless centre-forward whose worth to the team is far greater than what he delivers in the goals column.