Madrid, Monday @Peoplesports
Lionel Messi delivered another masterful performance as Barcelona sailed past Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Sunday to take an 11-point lead over nearest rivals Atletico Madrid in La Liga. After putting Chelsea to the sword in the Champions League midweek, Messi scored for the sixth game in a row against Athletic at the Camp Nou to propel Barca closer to the domestic title.
“Every day he discovers something new, something different, he’s very aware of what he has to do, what the team needs from him at each moment,” Barca coach Erneste Valverde said of Messi, the Spanish league’s leading scorer this season with 25 goals.
Not to be outdone by his greatest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) then hit four goals as Real Madrid downed Girona 6-3 to move into third place, albeit still 15 points off Barcelona.
A dominant start from Barca yielded the opening goal after just eight minutes as Messi found Jordi Alba out on the left, his pull-back neatly side-footed into the far corner by Paco Alcacer, filling in for the suspended Luis Suarez.
The hosts looked a constant threat early on and Philippe Coutinho was denied a second when he rattled the woodwork, while Ousmane Dembele should have done much better with just Kepa Arrizabalaga to beat.
But the Athletic goalkeeper was powerless to keep out a crunching low drive from Messi on the half hour, the Argentine taking a touch to control a pass from Dembele before lashing home.
Barca extended their unbeaten La Liga run to 36 matches dating back to last season, drawing to within two games of the record set by Real Sociedad between 1979 and 1980. “We’re not going to tempt fate.
The next match in Seville will be a very difficult trip,” said Valverde. Real Madrid reclaimed third place from Valencia when Ronaldo took his La Liga goals tally this season to 22 with four in a 6-3 victory over Girona at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo has now scored 21 goals in all competitions in 13 games since the turn of the year. “I hope that he can catch Messi in La Liga (he is three goals behind), it’s important for him and for us,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane. -AFP