BARCELONA -- Lionel Messi marked his 700th Barcelona appearance with a goal and two assists as the Spanish champions beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring at Camp Nou in the 29th minute with a well-taken finish after being teed up by Messi, rated No. 1 forward in the ESPN FC 100. The Uruguayan then turned provider, feeding Messi four minutes later after Mats Hummels had given the ball away to Frenkie de Jong.
Substitute Antoine Griezmann added the third after the break when he latched on to another fine Messi pass. Jadon Sancho pulled a goal back for Dortmund late on and then hit the crossbar as the Germans at least finished with a flourish.
Despite the doubts before the game and the criticism of the team's recent performances, Barca, in terms of pure results, are actually doing OK. This win booked their place in the next round as group winners, which means they will definitely avoid Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City in the next round. They also can't be paired against Spanish sides Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at this stage of the competition.
As well as the result, though, this was a better display. There was pressing, there was running and there was some good football -- which certainly wasn't true of the weekend's win at Leganes.
It was also important for Messi, Suarez and Griezmann to all get on the score sheet. Particularly the latter, who had gone six games without a goal. As well as scoring, he also looked sharper, linking well with Messi at times.
Griezmann was only on because Dembele had exited against his former club in the 25th minute with another injury -- this time a thigh problem. Further tests will determine how long he's out for but it's his ninth injury since he joined from Dortmund in 2017 and it continues a worrying trend.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde has taken a lot of stick this season but there have been good performances, at least. This was one of the better ones.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
DF Sergi Roberto, 7 -- Got forward at every opportunity to take advantage of the space made by Messi drifting inside. Caused problems.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 -- This was a big test for the French defender. He was playing two games in a week for his club for the first time in 14 months. It was also his first appearance in the Champions League this season. He passed the test with flying colours, which is a huge boost for Barca moving forward.
DF Junior Firpo, 7 -- Much more forward-thinking on the left than he was at Leganes and rarely troubled at the back.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- Dropped in between the back three to help Barca switch to 3-4-3 with the ball. Did well.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 8 -- After Ter Stegen and Messi, he's emerged as the third name on Barcelona's teammate. Increasingly does it all in the middle and he was involved in the build-up to the second and third goals.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Made his first start in Europe this season and, after giving the ball away in the first minute, grew into the game.
FW Lionel Messi, 9 -- Made the difference once again. His finish was good but his two assists were better. Hit the bar, too, with a free-kick from out wide and produced countless number of mazy runs around dizzy Dortmund defenders.
FW Luis Suarez, 8 -- Worked really hard, leading from the front, pressing the Dortmund defenders ferociously. Took his goal really well just minutes after he'd had another ruled out for a marginal offside. Produced a lovely pass to set up Messi's goal, too.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 -- Looked gutted as he trudged down the tunnel after injuring his thigh.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- A promising night for the Frenchman. Was more involved than he has been recently and took his goal really well.
MF Arturo Vidal, NR -- Replaced Rakitic late on but didn't have time to make his mark on a game which had already been sewn up.
DF Moussa Wague, NR -- Came on in stoppage time for his Champions League debut.