Messi sets goal record for one year, Falcao scores five
BARCELONA: Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao were unstoppable Sunday on a memorable night when both stars again demonstrated why their teams fill the top two spots in the Spanish league.
Messi broke a 40-year record for most goals in a year by scoring his 85th and 86th goals of 2012 to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win at Real Betis, while Falcao struck five times as Atletico thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 6-0.
Messi struck in the 16th and 25th minutes to break German great Gerd Mueller’s 1972 record of 85 goals and give his team a 2-0 lead in Seville.
Barcelona then struggled to hold on for its eighth win in as many away games after Ruben Castro halved the advantage for Betis before halftime, with both sides hitting the goal-frame various times in a wild second half.
”The record is nice, but the important thing is the win that keeps us on the path we want to continue on,” Messi said.
Barcelona extended is league-record start to remain six points ahead of Atletico and 11 in front of defending champion Real Madrid.
Falcao’s outstanding performance was the first time a player had scored five goals in one game in the Spanish league since Fernando Morientes for Real Madrid against Las Palmas in the 2001-02 season. He also became the first to achieve the feat for Atletico in its 109-year history.
”It’s amazing to enter into history,” said Falcao. ”It was an unforgettable night.”
On Wednesday night, Messi feared the worst when he was carried off the pitch with a leg injury in Barcelona’s Champions League draw with Benfica.
But the Argentina forward showed absolutely no signs of being slowed by his bruised knee, slicing through the hosts’ defense to once more write his name in the history books.
His first goal came when he received Andres Iniesta’s pass, dribbled around two defenders and shifted gears to dribble into the box before ripping a shot into the far corner of the net.
Iniesta combined with Messi for him to get his 12th brace of the season. The Spain midfielder flicked Messi’s pass back to him for the Argentina forward to score with another left-footed effort.
”We are very happy for Messi. It seems impossible that a player could score so many goals,” said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova. ”But he has three games left (in 2012) and we hope to help him set the mark as high as he can.”
Betis, which beat Madrid in its last home game, was stunned until substitute Alberto Vadillo set up Castro inside the area to coolly shoot beyond goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 39th and ignite the packed Benito Villamarin stadium.
The goal invigorated Betis, and Valdes almost gifted Castro an equalizer when he spilled Salva Sevilla’s lob off the crossbar and barely recovered in time to pull it in with Castro lurking.
Betis almost equalized twice more. Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano’s poor clearance hit the post, before Alejandro Pozuelo rattled the crossbar with the visitors uncharacteristically losing control of the ball. Messi almost had a third goal late on after spinning and shooting, only for goalkeeper Adrian San Miguel to deflect the ball onto the upright. Barcelona defender Jordi Alba hit the crossbar from the rebound.
”It was very tough to beat Betis,” said Messi. ”We earned an important victory.”
Falcao helped Atletico bounce back from its loss to Madrid last round with a commanding victory over last-place Deportivo that kept it perfect after eight home games this season.
After Diego Costa found the net for Atletico in the 23rd, Falcao scored his first by rifling a low shot under goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia in the 28th. He then curled a vicious shot in from the edge of the area three minutes from halftime.
Even with the result beyond doubt, the Colombia international was far from done.
He earned and converted a penalty in the 64th, launched himself airborne to head home a rebound of Arda Turan’s attempt in the 68th, and capped the demolition in the 71st by losing two defenders and slotting a shot inside the near post.
”I had never scored as many goals before,” said Falcao. ”I have a great team that is supporting me and helping me develop as a player.” Falcao has 16 goals in the league to trail only Messi, who has 23.
Also Sunday, Levante beat Mallorca 4-0 to move into sixth place, while Athletic Bilbao downed Celta Vigo 1-0.