Lionel Messi smashed through the 300-goal mark with a brace as Barcelona crushed Rayo Vallecano 5-0 in Madrid on Saturday to go three points clear at the top of La Liga.
David Villa, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas got the other goals to put the pressure back onto second-placed Atletico Madrid, who entertain Osasuna on Sunday.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Rayo Vallecano in a La Liga tie in Madrid on Saturday. Pics/AFP
Messi’s goals were the 300th and 301st of his career, a total made up of 270 for Barca and 31 for Argentina in only 419 matches. They also took him to 13 in the league this season and 73 in all competitions in 2012.
That’s just two behind Pele’s 75 goals for Santos and Brazil in 1959, and only 12 shy of Gerd Mueller’s all-time best calendar year record of 85 for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was delighted with his team who have now equalled the club’s best ever start to a La Liga season, taking 25 points from a possible 27.
“Being able to win 25 out of 27 points is not an easy feat. We could’ve drawn a couple of matches, but fought until the end and we deserve the points we’ve won,” he said.
Vilanova also praised Messi for his team spirit as much as his goals.
“We’re very pleased with Leo, but I’m sticking with what he did in the 89th minute, when we were up 5-0 he ran back 30 metres to defend a corner kick.”
Rayo started brightly and had claims for a penalty turned down on eight minutes when Fabregas appeared to hold back Leo Baptistao.
Rayo were pressuring the Catalans and it took until the 19th minute for Barca to have their first shot when Messi drove wide.
A minute later, Barcelona were ahead. Fabregas picked up a loose ball and played in Villa with a probing pass that the Spanish national team’s all-time top scorer finished in style, first- time with his right footer.
Towards the end of the half, Messi went close with a curled free-kick
Within two minutes of the restart, Messi had doubled the lead. Pedro Rodriguez found Martin Montoya in an advanced wide position and the right-back pulled the ball back for the little Argentinian, who steered it first time into the top right corner of the net.
Xavi and Fabregas then added two more in two minutes with 10 minutes remaining for the final whistle.
With two minutes left, Messi raced onto a Fabregas pass to get his second and his side’s fifth.
Messi in Numbers...
301... career goals scored
419... career matches played
270... goals scored for Barcelona
31... goals scored for Argentina
73... goals scored this year
13... goals scored in 2012 La Liga so far