In­cred­i­ble Leo banks an­other record for Barcelona

Ar­gentina icon set new land­mark in La Liga when Eibar were put to sword

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Matt Mon­aghan @mattmon­aghan360 ✉ mattmon­[email protected]

His 400th league goal


The in­com­pa­ra­ble Lionel Messi notched an un­matched 400th La Liga goal when cham­pi­ons Barcelona eased to a 3-0 win against Eibar.

All eyes were on the Ar­gentina mae­stro be­fore kick-off at Camp Nou as he closed on yet an­other land­mark. It was strike part­ner Luis Suarez, how­ever, who got the scor­ing un­der way in the 19th minute with a won­der­ful curled fin­ish from Philippe Coutinho’s pass.

The wait for Messi’s record goal would be ended in the 53rd minute when he skipped through and slot­ted in after Suarez robbed Anaitz Ar­billa. The Uruguay striker would then earn a brace just be­fore the hour mark, swerv­ing one in with the out­side of his right boot after Sergi Roberto’s quick throw-in.

Here are the talk­ing points after the Cata­lans re-es­tab­lished a five­point lead at the top on Sun­day:

Messi the mag­nif­i­cent Eibar

Messi was not in a rush. The 31-year-old, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally un­flap­pable when clad in the colours of the Blau­grana, had the fewest pass at­tempts (11) and touches (19) among his team-mates in the first half.

The Ar­gentina su­per­star, in­stead, al­lowed Coutinho’s re­call to the XI for top-flight duty in the face of fevered trans­fer con­jec­ture and Suarez’s con­tin­ued ruth­less form – it’s now five goals in his last five matches – to take cen­tre stage.

Just like the 399 times since an im­pu­dent lob against Al­bacete in May 2005 her­alded the ar­rival of a true great, Messi bided his time.

When the goal came, it was one the Barca faith­ful had en­joyed so many times be­fore. A quick press from Suarez saw de­fender Ar­billa come un­stuck, swift passes and in­ter­play fol­lowed be­tween the Uruguayan and Coutinho, be­fore Messi un­set­tled the re­main­ing de­fend­ers with a dummy at­tempt and rolled the ball low into the op­po­site cor­ner.

A 400th goal in a 435th La Liga game; 148 more than any­one else. The king of the Camp Nou also moved onto 231 strikes at home.

Messi had be­come just the sec­ond player to reach 400+ goals in the his­tory of Europe’s top five leagues.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo beat him to the mark (he’s now on 409, thanks to an ex­cel­lent start to life at Ju­ven­tus). But Messi got there in 63 fewer matches.

Eter­nal great­ness is his pre­serve. But he is not slow­ing down to ad­mire the achieve­ment – far from it thanks to a 17th goal in 17 La Liga fix­tures this term.

Philing the pres­sure?

It was not just Messi’s lat­est stab at his­tory that dom­i­nated talk be­fore the match.

Coutinho’s cast­ing as the ¤160 mil­lion mis­fit was so­lid­i­fied by talk that Barca are con­sid­er­ing sac­ri­fic­ing him to Manch­ester United, with Ney­mar be­ing ‘brought back home’ from Paris Saint-Ger­main.

In an 18 top-flight run-out of the cam­paign, the Brazil at­tack­ing mid­fielder could not add to a dis­ap­point­ing tally of four goals. But he got the as­sist for Suarez’s first, was in­volved in Messi’s mo­ment and was de­nied a first-half penalty.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde, how­ever, will note that Coutinho made only one key pass, boasted 85.7-per-cent pass ac­cu­racy and had one shot. He must do bet­ter to re­gain a per­ma­nent place in the first XI.

Eibar’s trip to fear

The jour­ney south east to Barcelona would have been made with gen­uine trep­i­da­tion by Eibar.

From eight pre­vi­ous La Liga meet­ings be­tween the sides, the ag­gre­gate score stood at 28-4.

The 3-0 re­sult played ex­actly to form. But re­mark­ably, the rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened vis­i­tors had more than dou­ble their ex­alted hosts’ at­tempts on goal (15-seven). Where Barca reg­is­tered 85.7-per-cent shot ac­cu­racy, Eibar’s was down at 13.3 per cent. Qual­ity counts.

Lionel is so lethal: The scram­bling Eibar de­fence could not keep Barcelona su­per­star Lionel Messi out in the 53rd minute.

Hot streak: Luis Suarez has five goals in his last five matches.

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