LONDON – Back at the scene of his 2011 Champions League final triumph, Lionel Messi delivered another display of artistry at Wembley Stadium.
Messi’s two goals helped Barcelona fight off Tottenham’s second-half resurgence and secured a 4-2 win for the visitors on Wednesday.
But the victory — after a three-game winless domestic run — was built on much more than Messi’s virtuoso performance.
Selflessness isn’t a trait often attached to Luis Suarez, but it was the former Liverpool striker’s clever dummies that set up both goals from Messi as he allowed the ball to drift past him into the path of the Argentine forward.
The five-time world player of the year could even afford to hit the post twice before scoring in the second half as the five-time European champions made it two wins out of two in Group B.
“Everything he does is so unpredictable,” Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho said. “I’m thrilled for him that he scored twice.”
Neymar went one better with three goals in Paris Saint-Germain’s 6-1 rout of overmatched Red Star Belgrade. The French champion’s other superstar forward, Kylian Mbappe, also scored.
Mohamed Salah was the star of Liverpool’s run to the final last season but has made a slow start this time, and the entire team failed to get a single shot on target in a 1-0 loss at Napoli.
Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atletico Madrid’s 3-1 win over Belgian champion Club Brugge.
Barcelona’s impressive display extended the team’s perfect record at England’s national stadium — four wins spread across 26 years.
Messi now has five goals after two group games while Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to score for Juventus.
Initially, Messi settled for a supporting role as his defense-splitting pass from the halfway line to Jordi Alba helped create the opening goal. After goalkeeper Hugo Lloris rashly rushed off his line to confront Alba, the ball was squared up for Philippe Coutinho to knock in within two minutes of kickoff.
The opener was partially the result of Lloris’ poor judgment in his return from an injury sustained during a drunken-driving incident. The second goal was pure artistry, as Messi also started the move that saw Suarez and Coutinho combine to set up Ivan Rakitic to volley superbly into the top of the net.
After Tottenham striker Harry Kane pulled one back in the 52nd minute, Messi started and completed the move four minutes later that restored Barcelona’s two-goal lead.
By the time Alba virtually cut the ball back from the byline, Messi had darted into the box and both Coutinho and Suarez left it for the five-time world player of the year to finish.
In Paris, Neymar’s treble included two superb free kicks, taking his tally to 10 goals in eight games overall this season. He is back in top form after a difficult World Cup where he stood out more for his theatrics than his match-winning ability.
“Neymar was outstanding. He was just sensational, magnificent,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said. “You can sense that he’s hungry, that he wants to make the difference and win the ball back.”
In Naples, Italy, Lorenzo Insigne struck in the 90th minute to score the only goal in Napoli’s win over a surprisingly listless Liverpool.
Having threatened all night without anything to show for it besides Dries Mertens’ volley off the crossbar, Napoli finally broke through when Insigne redirected a cross from Jose Callejon by the far post.
Insigne, who grew up in the Naples area, celebrated by creating a heart shape with his hands.
“It’s wonderful to win like this,” Insigne said. “We had a great performance as a team and wanted the result at all costs.”
Griezmann scored a goal in each half to lead Atletico to its hard-fought win.
Griezmann opened the scoring in the first half, but Club Brugge fought back and equalized with a superb long-range shot by Arnaut “Danjuma” Groeneveld just before halftime.
Atletico’s third goal was scored by Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion in stoppage time.
“Things got complicated in the first half but we were able to improve and get the victory,” Griezmann said. “It puts us more at ease compared to last season.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5