Messi hits 500-goal mark

> Striker and Suarez save Barca for come­back win, Bale keeps Madrid top

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

LIONEL MESSI, with his 500th Barcelona goal, and Luis Suarez saved the Span­ish cham­pi­ons from a sec­ond de­feat in six days as they came from be­hind to win 2-1 at Sevilla on Sun­day.

Vic­tory keeps Barca just two points adrift of Real Madrid, who were 3-0 vic­tors over Le­ganes thanks to a dou­ble from Gareth Bale.

Madrid also an­nounced that Cristiano Ron­aldo will ex­tend his con­tract with the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons un­til 2021 yes­ter­day.

Messi in­spired a spir­ited Barca fight­back fresh from a 3-1 de­feat at Manch­ester City in the Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day after a first-half dom­i­nated by Sevilla.

“There is no one like him and our ob­jec­tive as a team is to look for Leo as much as pos­si­ble,” Barca boss Luis En­rique told Span­ish TV sta­tion Mo­vis­tar.

“The ca­pac­ity Messi has to play in any po­si­tion and in­ter­pret what is hap­pen­ing on the field is laud­able.”

With the cast of the Game of Thrones among those watch­ing on in Seville, the game got off to a fran­tic start.

The hosts had two shots on goal in­side 50 sec­onds, but from a Sevilla cor­ner Barca broke for­ward at light­ning speed and Suarez’s ef­fort from Ney­mar’s lay­off was bril­liantly saved by Ser­gio Rico.

Sevilla re­mained on the front foot for most of the first-half and got their re­ward on 15 min­utes when Pablo Sara­bia’s pass bam­boo­zled Sergi Roberto and Vi­tolo charged through to open the scor­ing.

Barca made Sevilla pay with an­other bril­liant counter-at­tack to level two min­utes be­fore half­time as this time Messi curled Ney­mar’s pass into the bot­tom cor­ner.

The goal was Messi’s 500th for Barca in­clud­ing friendlies, but he should have had more after the break as only a bril­liant block from Mar­i­ano and save from Rico pre­vented the Barca cap­tain turn­ing the game around.

Messi turned provider for the win­ner just after the hour mark as he teed up Suarez to drill the ball low past Rico.

Ear­lier, Bale rounded off a fine week after sign­ing one of the most lu­cra­tive deals in foot­ball his­tory him­self to keep him tied to Real un­til 2022.

The Welsh­man earned his bumper new wage as he struck twice in seven first-half min­utes be­fore Al­varo Mo­rata added a third 14 min­utes from time.

Bale out­sprinted the Le­ganes de­fence as he latched onto Isco’s through ball and rounded Jon An­der Ser­antes be­fore slot­ting home from a nar­row an­gle.

His sec­ond was a scrap­pier fin­ish as Bale pounced on a loose ball in­side the area from Toni Kroos’s free­kick to bun­dle home from close range.

By con­trast, Ron­aldo en­dured an­other frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon as he was kept score­less for the fifth time in eight La Liga ap­pear­ances this sea­son and didn’t even man­age a shot on tar­get.

The Por­tuguese has now gone five games with­out scor­ing at the Bern­abeu – his long­est drought since join­ing Real seven years ago.

“There is noth­ing wrong, he is not wor­ried,” said Real boss Zine­dine Zi­dane about Ron­aldo’s slump in form.

“He looks good, he is mo­ti­vated, he likes to scores goals and even more so in this sta­dium, but he is calm.”

Mo­rata com­pleted the scor­ing for Zi­dane’s men when he col­lected Kroos’s pass be­fore fir­ing home at the near post.

Vil­lar­real moved up to third with a 2-0 win over Real Betis.

Mean­while, Va­len­cia’s strug­gles con­tin­ued as a 2-1 de­feat at Celta Vigo leaves them just a point above the rel­e­ga­tion zone. – AFP

– REUTERSPIX

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (2nd left) scores past Sevilla’s goal­keeper Ser­gio Rico dur­ing the Span­ish La Liga match at Ra­mon Sanchez Pizjuan Sta­dium in Seville yes­ter­day.

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