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24 Apr 2017

Lionel Messi Scores 500th Goal For Barcelona

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Lionel Messi struck his 500th
Barcelona goal with the last
kick of the game to blow the
La Liga title race wide open
with a thrilling 3-2 win at
Real Madrid on Sunday.


Messi had broken a three-year goalless drought against
Madrid to cancel out
Casemiro's opener for Madrid
in the first-half. Ivan Rakitic's stunning strike
and a red card for Madrid
captain Sergio Ramos for
chopping down Messi 13
minutes from time put Barca
on course for victory before James Rodriguez came off the bench to
level four minutes from time.


However, fittingly, Messi had
the final say with a brilliant
finish deep into stoppage
time to lift Barcelona's hopes
of a third straight La Liga
title. Fresh from dumping Bayern Munich out the Champions League in a
4-2 thriller after extra-time in midweek, Madrid had started
confidently in another breathless encounter at the
Bernabeu.


Cristiano Ronaldo had strong
appeals for a penalty waived
away inside two minutes
after he appeared to have
been clipped by Samuel
Umtiti. Barca grew slowly into the game and had their first big chance
when Luis Suarez dragged wide Jordi Alba's fine cut-back from the edge
of the box 11 minutes in.


Shortly after Messi was left
floored and bloodied after
being caught by a stray elbow
from Marcelo. The Argentine was still down
by Ronaldo drilled another
fine effort towards goal that
Marc-Andre ter Stegen did
well to parry to safety. Unsurprisingly given both
Madrid's potency and Barca's
inability to defend set-pieces,
the opener arrived from a
dead ball. Marcelo picked up the loose
ball from a corner and when
Sergio Ramos volleyed his
cross against the post,
Casemiro was on hand to tap
into an unguarded net. The lead lasted just five
minutes, though, as with a
handkerchief still mopping
the blood from his cheek,
Messi danced past Dani
Carvajal and Nacho to fire home his first goal against
Madrid for three years. Ter Stegen was called into
action again to prevent Real
immediately retaking the
lead as he flew to his left to
save from Luka Modric's long-
range effort. However, Barca ended the
half feeling hard done by
when referee Alejandro Jose
Hernandez didn't show
Casemiro a second yellow
card for upending Messi as he led a promising counter-
attack. Madrid were rampant at the
start of the second period, but
were met with a wall of
resistence in Ter Stegen. The German dived low to his
left to turn international
teammate Toni Kroos's effort
behind before diverting
Karim Benzema's goalbound
header to safety with his outstretched foot. However, Keylor Navas was
also busy at the other end as
he came to Madrid's rescue on
three occasions. Firstly, he got a foot to Paco
Alcacer's prodded effort
before pulling off acrobatic
saves to deny Gerard Pique
and Suarez. Ronaldo then missed a guilt-
edged chance to put Madrid
back in front as he somehow
turned the ball over from
point-blank range after
unselfish play from Asensio. There was nothing Navas
could do to deny Barca 17
minutes from time when
Rakitic took aim from 25
yards and drilled into the top
corner. The match seemed to have
swung decisively in Barca's
favour four minutes later
when Ramos scythed down
Messi to be shown the 22nd
red card of his career. However, even with 10 men,
Madrid rallied and levelled
when substitute James
Rodriguez swept home
Marcelo's cross four minutes
from time. There was still time for one
huge twist in the title race,
though, as Sergi Roberto's
lung-bursting run led a Barca
counter-attack to feed Jordi
Alba and his cross was smashed into the corner by
Messi.

(AFP)
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