Lionel Messi scored the 50th free-kick goal of his Barcelona career to fuel hopes for a mind-boggling La Liga title triumph.
Messi’s two goals in a 3-2 win at Valencia on Sunday took him to 28 strikes in the league for the season, which also meant the record six-time Ballon d’Or winner stayed ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in their friendly long-distance rivalry.
Barca captain Messi’s seasonal tally is one more that former Real Madrid talisman of Juventus Ronaldo has succeeded in the current Serie A campaign, after the Portuguese scored twice in a victory at Udinese earlier on Sunday.
Both are leading the way in their respective leagues, and only 36-goal Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has scored more times than Messi in Europe’s top five leagues in the current campaign.
– English LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) May 2, 2021
Of Messi’s superb career, 39 of his free kicks have come in La Liga, but few will have been as important as the curling strike that ultimately secured the points for Mestalla, giving Barcelona a 3-1 lead that was scaled down. when Carlos Soler hit an excellent consolation.
Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman was a free-kick specialist himself but was absent from the sideline against Valencia.
That’s because Koeman received a two-game sideline ban for protests in Thursday’s shock loss to Granada which saw him sent off.
In his place, Koeman’s assistant Alfred Schreuder led the squad, and it was up to the former Hoffenheim boss to temper the excitement over Saturday’s upcoming clash between Barcelona and the current leaders of Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.
Barcelona would move up to La Liga by one point, for just over 24 hours at least, if they win this game.
There are only four rounds of matches to come, and next week’s games look very important, given that Real Madrid and Sevilla, the other two sides contending for the title, also face each other.
“We’re all close,” Schreuder said. “But here we are. We don’t look at other teams, just ourselves. Next week is not a final, we have four match days in which we have to try to win.
“Yes, we trust our players to win La Liga. We have narrowed the gap with Atletico since January. We have competed well over the past three months. “
The loss to Granada was a choppy result for Barcelona, but they had enough to push back Valencia.
Messi missed a penalty but scored seconds later as the ball circled around Valencia’s penalty area, while Antoine Griezmann was also on target as Barcelona responded positively by falling behind early in the second period.
“We showed character,” said Schreuder. “We believed in what we were doing.”