Messi nets 400th goal in Span­ish league play

Barcelona’s top scorer gets big marker in 3-0 vic­tory

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Sports - JOSEPH WIL­SON

BARCELONA, SPAIN — That’s 400 and count­ing.

Lionel Messi took his all-time Span­ish league scor­ing record to 400 goals on Sun­day after con­tribut­ing to a 3-0 win over Eibar to keep de­fend­ing cham­pion Barcelona com­fort­ably at the top of the Span­ish soc­cer league.

Messi scored Barcelona’s sec­ond goal shortly after half­time to reach a mile­stone in the com­pe­ti­tion after 435 league matches.

In all com­pe­ti­tions, Barcelona says the 31-year-old Messi has scored an as­ton­ish­ing 575 goals in 658 ap­pear­ances.

Barcelona’s all-time top scorer got the land­mark goal in the 53rd minute after Luis Suarez passed to him in­side Eibar’s area. The Ar­gen­tine did the rest by open­ing an an­gle around a de­fender and driv­ing in a low-left­footed shot.

It was also Messi’s league-lead­ing 17th league goal and his 23rd goal over­all this sea­son. “He should be proud,” said Suarez, who scored Barcelona’s other two goals. “Game after game he shows what a great player he is. I am happy for him and for the his­tory that he is writ­ing for this club.”

Barcelona stayed five points ahead of sec­ond-placed Atletico Madrid, which edged Le­vante 1-0 thanks to a penalty from An­toine Griez­mann, as the league reached its mid­way point.

Suarez dou­ble

Suarez opened and con­cluded the scor­ing for Barcelona at Camp Nou.

The Uruguay striker ex­changed two quick passes with Philippe Coutinho to break down Eibar’s back­line be­fore he skil­fully di­rected a shot into the far cor­ner of the net while fall­ing down in the 19th.

Goal­keeper Asier Riesgo did well to turn back at­tempts by Suarez and Messi. But he was left all alone against Suarez when Sergi Roberto caught the de­fence out of po­si­tion with a quick throw-in di­rectly to Suarez, who shot past Riesgo from a tight an­gle in the 59th.

Suarez is sec­ond in the league be­hind Messi this sea­son with 14 goals.

Atletico stays close

Griez­mann en­sured that Atletico stayed in touch with Barcelona.

Griez­mann scored his team-lead­ing ninth league goal of the sea­son when he fired a spot kick over Le­vante goal­keeper Oier Olaz­a­bal in the 57th minute fol­low­ing a hand­ball by de­fender Nikola Vukce­vic.

Atletico dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion and the scor­ing chances but its lack of fin­ish­ing touch meant it needed goal­keeper Jan Oblak to block a shot by Jose Mo­rales to guar­an­tee the vic­tory.

The hosts thought they scored early through Jorge (Koke) Res­ur­rec­cion, but the ref­eree dis­al­lowed the goal be­cause of a foul at the start of the at­tack that he spot­ted dur­ing a video re­view.

Atletico de­fender Ste­fan Savic had to be sub­sti­tuted be­fore 10 min­utes were up due to mus­cle pain in his left thigh.

Sevilla slips

Third-placed Sevilla lost 2-0 at Ath­letic Bil­bao, end­ing its un­beaten run in nine rounds.

Sevilla was left 10 points be­hind Barcelona. Bil­bao for­ward Inaki Wil­liams scored both goals for the hosts to help lift them out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Later, fifth-placed Real Madrid can pull level on points with Sevilla if it wins at Real Betis.

Sevilla had won 3-1 at Bil­bao’s San Mames Sta­dium in the Copa del Rey on Thurs­day. They will meet again on Wed­nes­day in Seville in the re­turn leg of their round-of-16 game.

DAVID RAMOS GETTY IMAGES

Lionel Messi’s 400th Span­ish league goal helped Barcelona de­feat Eibar on Sun­day. It was also Messi’s league-lead­ing 17th league goal and his 23rd goal over­all this sea­son.

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