In his first outing since the birth of his third child, Messi struck the first blow after just 127 seconds at the Camp Nou, firing between Thibaut Courtois’ legs from an impossible angle. The die was cast.
Messi soon turned provider, teeing up Dembélé for the former Dortmund striker’s first goal in a Barcelona shirt. To their credit, Chelsea rose of the canvas after both blows, and almost countered when Marcos Alonso’s free-kick struck the post just before half-time.
It was Messi, night, though, the Argentinian wrapping things up with his trusted left foot midway through the second period, his 100th UEFA Champions League goal.
Chelsea were at no point outplayed in the tie – they had their chances – but a combination of the inevitable Messi goals and wasteful finishing put a swift end to the Blues’ European hopes. How they must regret the failure to top Group C ahead of Roma. As it is, Antonio Conte’s obsessive search for continental success goes on, while Chelsea’s focus now turns to the domestic fight to return to Europe’s top table next term.