Messi and Barça too good for Liverpool, Ruby Walsh bows out in style

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Lionel Messi curls in Barcelona’s third against Liverpool. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty

Lionel Messi curls in Barcelona’s third against Liverpool. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty

Barcelona are on the verge of the Champions League final, after they beat Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of their last four clash at the Nou Camp last night. And as ever one man stole the headlines, with Lionel Messi’s brace putting Barça within touching distance of a place in Madrid. Luis Suarez - a former League Cup winner with Liverpool - opened the scoring against his old side after getting the better of Virgil van Dijk, before Messi bundled home a second after 75 minutes. He landed the killer blow soon after, curling in a stunning free-kick in the 82nd minute, with Ousmane Dembélé then missing two golden late chances to put the tie to bed. After his side’s defeat Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to Barça’s number 10: “I knew before that Lionel was a world-class player and now I saw it again I am not too surprised.” Tonight Arsenal and Chelsea are both in Europa League semi-final action - the Gunners at home to Valencia, Maurizio Sarri’s side away to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Yesterday saw the curtain come down on one of the greatest careers in Irish sporting history, as jockey Ruby Walsh announced his immediate retirement from racing. Walsh had just delivered a masterclass to partner Kemboy (13-8) to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup when he confirmed his decision: “That’s it, you’ll never see me on a horse again - I’m finished. I’m not going out for the next one. Racing has been great to me but it doesn’t last forever.” Walsh enjoyed nearly 2,800 winners during his glittering 24-year career, with a record 59 of them at the Cheltenham Festival, but said retirement had been on his mind for a while: “The time comes when you want to do something else with your life. I was going to go when I won a big one. I thought if I get through the year I’d go at Punchestown.” Life after Ruby begins with today’s third day of the Punchestown Festival, with Philip Hobbs’ British raider Defi Du Seuil a 15-8 favourite for the Ryanair Chase (6.40pm).

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