Tue, Mar 20, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Messi fires Barca 11 points clear, Ronaldo scores four


Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, second right, vies for the ball with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Nunez, left, in their La Liga match at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Lionel Messi on Sunday delivered another masterful performance as Barcelona sailed past Athletic Bilbao 2-0 to take an 11-point lead over nearest rivals Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

After putting Chelsea to the sword in the UEFA Champions League last week, Messi scored for the sixth game in a row against Athletic at the Camp Nou to propel Barca closer to the title.

“Every day he discovers something new, something different, he’s very aware of what he has to do, what the team needs from him at each moment,” Barca coach Erneste Valverde said of Messi, the league’s leading scorer with 25 goals. “Many times it seems that the coach has to teach the players, but what the coach really does is learn alongside them as things go on. We hope to keep on learning together.”

Not to be outdone by his greatest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo then hit four goals as Real Madrid downed Girona 6-3 to move into third place, albeit still 15 points off Barcelona.

A dominant start from Barca yielded the opening goal after just eight minutes when Messi found Jordi Alba out on the left and his pull-back was side-footed into the corner by Paco Alcacer.

Messi then took a touch to control a pass from Dembele before lashing home a crunching low drive on the half-hour mark.

The victory extended Barca’s unbeaten La Liga run to 36 matches dating back to last season, drawing to within two games of the record set by Real Sociedad between 1979 and 1980.

“I would love to [break the record], but why carry on talking about it if we can lose, win or draw the next game,” Valverde said. “We’re not going to tempt fate. The next match in Seville will be a very difficult trip.”

Real Madrid reclaimed third place when Ronaldo took his La Liga goals tally this season to 22.

“I hope that he can catch Messi in La Liga, it’s important for him [Ronaldo] and for us,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “When Cristiano plays well, the team plays well.”

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