Messi hits four in Guardiola’s Barca farewell

Reuters, MADRID

Mon, May 07, 2012 - Page 20

Lionel Messi scored four goals to take his La Liga tally to 50 this season as Barcelona hammered RCD Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday in an emotional last game at Camp Nou for outgoing coach Pep Guardiola.

Messi netted twice from the penalty spot, once from a free-kick and the other was a low finish into the corner following a thrilling breakaway.

After notching his fourth from the spot, a record 72nd goal in all competitions this season, the World Player of the Year ran to the touchline and hugged Guardiola, while the rest of the squad gathered to join them in a huddle.

Guardiola is leaving at the end of the campaign, to be replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova, after winning 13 trophies in four seasons, including two Champions Leagues.

He has one La Liga away game and the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao left before he goes, but the crowd gave him a huge sendoff in the city derby, with a huge banner hanging from the stands saying: “We love you Pep.”

Messi made it 1-0 with a curling free-kick, which took a slight deflection off the wall after 12 minutes, and then doubled the lead with a penalty in the 64th.

The Argentine saved his best for the third as he sprinted away to score and another penalty soon after rounded off the rout against mid-table opponents with nothing left to play for.

Guardiola was ushered on to the pitch at the end and given a microphone to address the crowd.

“To feel so loved these four years, you don’t know how happy that makes me feel,” he said, choking back the tears. “Thank you everyone, especially those nearest to me.”

“I am leaving you in good hands. See you soon. You will never lose me,” he added.

Second-placed Barca have 90 points with one match left, seven behind champions Real Madrid, who won 2-1 at Granada with a weakened side.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty, his 45th goal in the league this season, and Granada’s David Cortes put through his own net at the end to leave Real on course for a record 100 La Liga points.

Jonas scored in added time to give Valencia a 1-0 home win over regional rivals Villarreal that secured them third place and the last automatic qualifying berth in the Champions League for the third year in a row.

Valencia have 61 points and Malaga are fourth on 55 after falling 2-1 at Europa League finalists Atletico Madrid, who closed to within two points in fifth.

Real Mallorca occupy sixth place on 52 points after their 1-0 win over Levante UD, who are seventh.

At the foot of the table, the five clubs still in danger of relegation will take their battle to the final day this weekend after second from bottom Sporting de Gijon and third from bottom Real Zaragoza won and the three sides above them all lost.

Zaragoza came from behind to beat already-relegated Real Racing Club de Santander 2-1 and move on to 40 points, three ahead of Sporting, who saw off Real Betis Balompie by the same scoreline.

Rayo Vallecano de Madrid are fourth from bottom on 40 points after losing 5-2 at Sevilla.

Villarreal, who finished fourth last season, are next best on 41 after their defeat at Valencia, while Granada are sixth from bottom on 42 after losing to the champions.

In other La Liga play, it was:

Athletic Bilbao 0, Getafe 0

CA Osasuna 1, Real Sociedad 0