MADRID: Lionel Messi’s stunning hat-trick set a Barcelona scoring record of 234 goals as the La Liga champions won an action-packed home game against Granada 5-3 to close within five points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
With his sixth league treble of the season, the Argentine World Player of the Year also set a Spanish record of 54 goals in all competitions with more than two months of the campaign remaining and overhauled Cristiano Ronaldo to top the La Liga scoring charts on 34 goals, two more than the Real forward.
Still only 24, Messi is well on the way to earning an unprecedented fourth straight World Player award and achieved his latest scoring feat after becoming the first man to net five goals in a Champions League match earlier this month.
Tuesday’s haul took his tally to an incredible 17 goals in his last seven games for his club.
“I am sorry for those who want to occupy his throne but this lad is simply the best,” said Barca coach Pep Guardiola. “Michael Jordan dominated his sport, Messi does the same in football. There’s nothing more to say.”
Real Madrid played their game in hand at Villarreal late last night and had 71 points from 27 matches prior to that. Barcelona, chasing a fourth successive title, have 66 from 28 games.
Xavi’s volley from Messi’s assist put Barca ahead in the fourth minute and Messi doubled their lead shortly after. Barca seemed in complete control but Granada pulled a goal back 10 minutes into the second half when Diego Mainz nodded in from a free kick and the visitors grabbed a shock equaliser from the penalty spot seven minutes later after Daniel Alves fouled Daniel Benitez.
Guilherme Siqueira kept his nerve amidst the whistling to beat Victor Valdes and make it 2-2 before Messi restored Barca’s lead just over 20 minutes from time. Racing clear from an Alves pass, he lifted the ball over goal-keeper Julio Cesar before Cristian Tello made it 4-2 when he followed up Messi’s angled strike.
The unstoppable Argentine completed his hat-trick four minutes later, his 234th Barca goal in official matches.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2012.
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