Sunday 25 February 2018

Landmark day for Messi as Barca break record

Lionel Messi scored on his 500th appearance for Barca. AFP PHOTO/ PAU BARRENAPAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images
Lionel Messi scored on his 500th appearance for Barca. AFP PHOTO/ PAU BARRENAPAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images Newsdesk Newsdesk

Barcelona returned to the top of the La Liga table with a 4-0 win over Real Betis on a day that saw three different teams in first position.

Lionel Messi scored on his 500th appearance for Barca and Luis Suarez netted twice.

Betis' Heiko Westermann opened the scoring on the half-hour mark with an own goal following a goalmouth scramble after Neymar had hit the bar from a hugely controversial penalty, awarded for a challenge on Messi.

Messi soon doubled the lead with his 425th goal for the club from Neymar's cutback, and Suarez made it three early in the second half. That goal was Barca's 179th of the calendar year, breaking Real Madrid's record set in 2014.

Suarez completed the scoring by tapping home after a typically intricate move to end Barcelona's stellar yearson a high.

"It's been spectacular and we wanted to finish it off this way," Messi said. "It's difficult to improve on what we have done, but we'll try. We have a great squad and we all want to achieve big things."

On the day that Irishman Patrick O'Connell - the former Barca and Betis manager who died in 1959 - was inducted in to the Nou Camp Hall of Fame, Real temporarily leapfrogged Barca and Atletico Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty and missed another in their 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad.

The Portuguese star blazed a spot-kick over the bar after 24 minutes but slotted home another three minutes before the break.

Sociedad substitute Bruma equalised after 49 minutes before Ronaldo struck a volley through a crowded penalty area into the net midway through the second half. Lucas Vazquez sealed the win with a goal after 87 minutes that will ease some pressure on coach Rafa Benitez.

"I have congratulated Cristiano and everyone else because they all united today," said Benitez. "He took responsibility after missing the penalty and carried the team on his back."

Real's time at the top lasted a couple of hours before Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann struck late to give a depleted Atletico a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.

Fernando Torres was selected up front but the ex- Liverpool striker is still searching for his 100th Atletico goal after a quiet game.

Substitute Correa fired home from a Thomas Partey pass after 88 minutes and Griezmann sealed the victory in injury-time.

Irish Independent

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