Messi still very hun­gry for goals

The Citizen (KZN) - - Internatio­nal -

Barcelona – Lionel Messi (above) marked his 700th game for Barcelona by scor­ing his 613th goal on Wed­nes­day as the Cata­lans beat Borus­sia Dort­mund 3-1 to go through as group win­ners to the Cham­pi­ons League last 16.

Messi cel­e­brated his an­niver­sary in style by putting Barca two up be­fore half-time, be­tween lay­ing on a pair of as­sists for Luis Suarez and An­toine Griez­mann in a com­fort­able vic­tory at Camp Nou.

“He was in­cred­i­ble,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “It’s all about what he does and when he does it. It was a per­for­mance to put us through.”

Eng­land’s Jadon San­cho fired into the top corner for a late Dort­mund con­so­la­tion but the vis­i­tors were largely dis­ap­point­ing and now face a fight with In­ter Milan to make it out of Group F.

Dort­mund will hope to beat Slavia Prague at home in a fort­night while re­ly­ing on Barcelona to play a strong enough team to avoid de­feat at the San Siro, eight days be­fore the sea­son’s first El Cla­sico at home to Real Madrid.

“We got the most dif­fi­cult group in the com­pe­ti­tion in my opin­ion,” said Valverde. “We are through with a game to spare, first in the group, and for the play­ers that means a lot.”

While Real have hit their stride in re­cent weeks, Barca have stum­bled, even if the re­sults have been good enough to re­main top of La Liga on goal dif­fer­ence.

For that they owe a great deal to Messi, who now has 10 goals in his last nine games, a timely surge into form ahead of the an­nounce­ment of the Ballon d’Or in Paris on Mon­day, for which his great­est threat is Liverpool de­fender Vir­gil Van Dijk.

As well as his 613 goals, Messi has pro­vided 237 as­sists in his 700 club matches, tak­ing his col­lec­tive tally of goals and as­sists in that time to an as­ton­ish­ing 850.

For Barcelona, the only worry was the sight of Ous­mane Dem­bele limp­ing off with an­other in­jury in the first half. Dem­bele could be a doubt for the Cla­sico, which is ex­actly three weeks away.

“It was a strange move­ment, a bad land­ing, I don’t know,” Valverde said. “We are qual­i­fied but the bad news is his in­jury.”

Dem­bele had been pre­ferred to Griez­mann, who re­placed him, while Ivan Rakitic made his first start since Septem­ber 21.

Rakitic made an event­ful open­ing, con­ced­ing pos­ses­sion as Dort­mund created their best chance in the open­ing minute of the match. – AFP

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