Incredible Leo banks another record for Barcelona
Argentina icon set new landmark in La Liga when Eibar were put to sword
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.