Lionel Messi surpassed Pele’s milestone of goals in a calendar year by scoring for the 75th and 76th time in 2012 to move within nine of Gerd Mueller’s all-time record as Barcelona won 4-2 at Mallorca in the Spanish league football on Sunday.
Xavi Hernandez unlocked Mallorca’s defence with a free kick in the 28th minute before Messi struck in the 44th. Cristian Tello added a third goal a minute later. After Mallorca netted twice early in the second half to breathe life into the match, Messi stepped up to score again the 70th to ensure victory as Barcelona rebounded from its loss at Celtic in the Champions League.
“Leo’s records are spectacular,” said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova. “It’s spectacular when you think that he scores so many goals. Some few players reach these numbers in seven or eight seasons, he does it in one. And most of his goals are great goals.”
This is the latest scoring feat for the Argentina forward, one of the leading candidates for the Ballon D’Or.
Messi scored 73 goals in the 2011-12 season for Barcelona, breaking the previous European club record of 67 goals set by Mueller in 1972-73.
He also set a Spanish league record of 50 goals last season and broke Cesar Rodriguez’s 57-year milestone of 232 goals to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer.
Barcelona’s 10th win in 11 rounds extended its club-record start and opened up a provisional 11-point gap over third-placed Madrid ahead of its game at Levante.
Atletico posts win
Also, second-placed Atletico Madrid stayed three points behind the pacesetters by easing past visiting Getafe 2-0 thanks to goals by Adrian Lopez and Arda Turan.
Joaquin Caparros’ Mallorca tried to follow Celtic’s defensive blueprint from Wednesday’s upset in Glasgow.
But the strategy didn’t last even half an hour.
Xavi Hernandez took full advantage of a foul earned by Cesc Fabregas on the edge of the area.
The Spain midfielder bent a beautiful free kick over the defensive barrier that turned goal-keeper Dudu Aouate into yet another spectator as it fell into his net.
“Both Xavi’s opener and Leo’s goal to make it 4-2 were the turning points of the match,” said Gerard Pique, who made his first start for Barcelona since injuring his foot in September.
Messi converted Barcelona’s 75 per cent of possession into a deserved second goal when the Argentina forward dribbled by several defenders and unleashed a left-footed shot that Aouate let slip through his hands.
Tello then quickly made it 3-0 by curving a strike from outside the area into the far side of the goal.
When it appeared Barcelona would cruise to a comfortable victory, two errors allowed Mallorca to get back into the game. Mallorca’s Michael Pereira pulled one back in the 55th after Javier Mascherano lost the ball. Two minutes later, Victor Casadesus made it 3-2 from the penalty spot following Sergio Busquets’ handball in the box.
But Messi received a pass from Alexis Sanchez and smashed the ball into the top corner to restore Barcelona’s two-goal advantage and crush Mallorca’s hopes.
Messi’s seventh double of the season increased his league-leading tally to 15 goals. He has 20 in all competitions this season. Pele scored 75 goals for Brazil and Santos in 1958. Mueller had 85 in 1972 for West Germany and Bayern Munich.
Lazio, Napoli score
At Rome, Juventus’s Serie ‘A’ title chance got an unexpected boost when Atalanta stunned Inter Milan 3-1 to dominate the ‘Nerazzurro Derby’ in Bergamo. Antonio Conte’s side had brushed off the threat of Pescara on Saturday with a 6-1 away rout which restored the Turin giant’s four-point lead over Inter.
With Atalanta lingering around mid-table, Inter was expected to return from Bergamo with at least a share of the points.
However, a week after humbling Juventus 3-1 in Turin to come within a point of the lead, Andrea Stramaccioni’s side saw their gap back at four points as Atalanta turned on the class to move up to sixth on Sunday.
Earlier, Lazio re-launched its campaign by dominating Roma 3-1 in a rain-lashed Rome derby as high-flying Fiorentina piled the pressure on AC Milan and Napoli fought back to beat Genoa 4-2.
Trailing 2-1 after Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose struck for Lazio to cancel out Erik Lamela’s opener, Roma was stung minutes into the second half when Daniele De Rossi was given a straight red card for a punch-slap to the face of Stefano Mauri as the pair tussled in the area.
Mauri doubled Roma’s agony when he pounced on a defensive mistake to put Lazio 3-1 up. Roma fought back and reduced the arrears in spectacular style when Miralem Pjanic hit a long-range free-kick in the 90th minute, which beat the retreating ‘keeper Marchetti, but it proved too little too late.
Napoli, meanwhile, cemented the third spot after a valiant fight-back from Ciro Immobile’s 23rd minute opener for Genoa took it to a 4-2 win.
La Liga: Athletic Bilbao 2 (de Marcos 27, Susaeta 46) bt Sevilla 1 (Negredo 79-pen); Real Mallorca 2 (Pereira 55, Victor 58-pen) lost to Barcelona 4 (Xavi 28, Messi 44, 70, Tello 45); Valladolid 1 (Victor Perez 65-pen) drew with Valencia 1 (Cissokho 15); Atletico Madrid 2 (Adrian 24, Turan 43) bt Getafe 0; Levante 1 (Rodriguez Diaz 62) lost to Real Madrid 2 (Cristiano Ronaldo 21, Morata 84).
Serie ‘A’: Palermo 2 (Dybala 7, 26) bt Sampdoria 0; Torino 1 (D’Ambrosio 65) bt Bologna 0; Parma 0 drew with Siena 0; Chievo 2 (Andreolli 38, Paloschi 89) drew with Udinese 2 (Angella 42, 91); Genoa 2 (Immobile 23, Bertolacci 55) lost to Napoli 4 (Mesto 54, Cavani 79, Hamsik 90, Insigne 94); Lazio 3 (Candreva 35, Klose 43, Mauri 46) bt Roma 2 (Lamela 9, Pjanic 90); AC Milan 1 (Pazzini 59) lost to Fiorentina 3 (Aquilani 10, Valero 38, el Hamdaoui 89); Atalanta 3 (Bonaventura 9, Dennis 60, 67-pen) bt Inter Milan 2 (Guarin 56, Palacio 84).
Keywords: Spanish League football