Lionel Messi’s 767th Barcelona appearance went perfectly to plan as the Argentine opened and closed the scoring in a 4-1 defeat of Huesca at the Camp Nou on Monday evening.
Antoine Griezmann and Oscar Mingueza added to the Catalans’ tally either side of Rafa Mir’s first half penalty, which was awarded in questionable fashion in stoppage time at the end of the opening 45 minutes. But Messi’s 660th and 661st goals stole the show.
With the win, Ronald Koeman’s side go four points behind Atletico Madrid, making the most of Los Colchoneros’ slip over the weekend.
It was always going to be Lionel Messi’s night, as he equalled Xavi Hernandez’s record of 767 appearances at Barcelona. He didn’t make anyone wait long for his show to begin, and he opened the scoring with his latest stunner with under a quarter of an hour played.
Sergino Dest had already seen a shot saved by Alvaro Fernandez, but Messi gave him no chance three minutes later. Having nipped in ahead of Jorge Pulido on the edge of the box, the No.10 curled in an exquisite strike from the edge of the area that bounced in off the crossbar for his 20th LaLiga Santander goal of the season.
Rafa Mir posed problems for Barcelona though and he put Pablo Maffeo in, who in turn drew a save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi came close to another fine goal with a volley that flew wide before Griezmann unleashed his own screamer. Driving towards the edge of the box in space, the World Cup winner tried to pick the same spot that Messi had so successfully. Although Griezmann didn’t quite clip the crossbar with his, there was no stopping his shot as it flew into the top corner for Barcelona’s second.
A third almost came soon after, but Frenkie de Jong’s improvised effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Alvaro Fernandez.
Huesca were gifted a lifeline on the stroke of half time through the award of a bizarre penalty. Rafa Mir sent a close-range shot wide and went to ground. There was slight contact from Sergino Dest behind him and Ter Stegen in front of him as he fell, but little to warrant a spot kick.
The penalty stood though and Rafa Mir himself stepped up to convert.
Somehow, Huesca seemed unaware of the threat Messi could pose and they inexplicably afforded him the freedom of the left flank to assist Oscar Mingueza for the Catalans’ third goal. Messi, stood still out wide, delivered a pinpoint ball onto the defender’s head that allowed the 21-year-old to score his first goal for the club.
Riqui Puig came off the bench late on and was involved in Messi’s second and the Catalans’ fourth. A flicked pass to Trincao saw space open up, and the No.10 exploited it as he, cutting in from the left, curled a low strike into Alvaro Fernandez bottom right-hand corner.