Wednesday 23 May 2018

Magical Messi hits another milestone

Lionel Messi scores Barcelona's winning goal from a free kick. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina
Lionel Messi scores Barcelona's winning goal from a free kick. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina

Jamie Holland

Lionel Messi scored his 600th career goal as Barcelona landed what could be the knock-out blow in this season's La Liga title race with a 1-0 win over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid.

Messi reached yet another milestone - 539 goals for Barca and 61 for Argentina - when he curled a brilliant 25-yard free-kick into the near top corner of Jan Oblak's net after 26 minutes.

That proved to be the only goal of the game at the Nou Camp and a fitting way to settle the top-of-the-table encounter as Barca moved a significant step closer to reclaiming the Spanish title.

Ernesto Valverde's men are now eight points clear of Atletico and a massive 15 points above defending champions Real Madrid in third.

With only 11 games to go after this round and Barca have only lost once in 42 competitive games since the start of their league campaign, and it looks like it would take something remarkable for the Blaugrana to now be denied the title.

At the other end of the table, it was not such a good day for Levante and their coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz, who was sacked in the wake of their agonising 1-1 home draw with Espanyol.

Levante midfielder Jose Morales looked to have earned the hosts a precious three points, converting a 55th-minute penalty after Marc Navarro pulled down Erick Cabaco.

But Espanyol - who beat Real Madrid in midweek - had the final say when Brazilian forward Leo Baptistao swept home Jose Manuel Jurado's cross in the first minute of stoppage time.

Elsewhere, runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich won 4-0 at Freiburg yesterday and veteran strikers Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez scored to boost their chances of World Cup recalls. Bayern, chasing a sixth successive title, opened up a 20-point lead over Schalke 04 with nine games to go.

While yesterday's games in Italy were postponed following the tragic death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, on Saturday Paulo Dybala's last-gasp goal avenged Juventus' October defeat to Lazio as the reigning Serie A champions won 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Edin Dzeko scored twice as Roma dealt a major blow to Napoli's hopes of winning the Serie A title with a 4-2 victory at Stadio San Paolo. Napoli are now just a point ahead of Juventus, who have played a game less.

Irish Independent

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