BARCELONA (AFP) – Lionel Messi will remain Barcelona’s penalty taker despite his Champions League miss against Manchester City, coach Luis Enrique insisted.
The Argentine superstar will keep his spot-kick taking duties, “without a doubt”, Enrique said, despite his failure in the dying seconds of Tuesday’s 2-1 last 16 first leg victory.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart brilliantly saved Messi’s spot kick and the little striker also missed with a follow-up header. A goal which would have given Barcelona commanding 3-1 win.
Messi has now failed to convert five of the last 10 penalties he has taken for club and country.
The four-time World Player of the Year has missed three penalties for Barcelona this season and left the field alone as two-goal hero Luis Suarez and other players went over to celebrate with Barcelona fans in the Ettihad stadium.
But Enrique gave a huge vote of confidence to the star despite their reportedly rocky relations.
“Penalties are for those who dare to step up and Leo Messi is our penalty taker without a doubt,” Enrique said.
“We know penalties can be missed in this game of ours and the next player to take one will be Lionel Messi,” he said.
With Suarez outshining his fellow South American, Enrique insisted it was still “a night to celebrate.”
“Leo knows how to face these situations,” added Suarez, who enjoyed his best night in a Barca shirt since joining from Liverpool for a club record fee in July.
“Sometimes you score penalties and other times not. The important thing is that the team played a spectacular first-half in every sense.”
Earlier this month, Messi passed up penalty taking responsiblities for the first time in five years when he let Neymar take a spot-kick against Villarreal in the first-leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final. However, the Brazilian also saw his effort saved by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.