Messi passes 300 goals in Barca comeback

Reuters, MADRID

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 - Page 18

Lionel Messi led Barcelona to a 2-1 comeback victory with a brace at lowly Granada in La Liga on Saturday, taking his tally for the club to 301 goals.

The World Player of the Year pounced on a loose ball to level in the 50th minute, before netting a superb free-kick for the winner in the 73rd, the 37th goal of the campaign for La Liga’s top scorer.

Only a last-minute save from goalkeeper Tono in a one-on-one situation denied Messi a hat-trick.

The victory moved Barca 15 points clear at the top of the table.

“More than 300 goals. It’s extraordinary what Messi does,” Barca assistant coach Jordi Roura told a press conference. “We had a lot of chances and didn’t take them, but he got two goals that are very important.”

Javier Saviola scored the only goal as Malaga warmed up for their midweek UEFA Champions League tie with a 1-0 home win over misfiring Athletic Bilbao.

The Qatari-owned club from the Costa del Sol, in their debut Champions League venture, visit Porto in a first-leg tie tomorrow.

Argentine Saviola’s seventh league goal of the season gave the hosts an 18th-minute advantage. The safe hands of compatriot, goalkeeper Willy Caballero, then helped preserve the lead as fourth-placed Malaga moved on to 42 points, four behind Real Madrid.

Getafe made light work of La Liga’s worst travelers RC Celta de Vigo, romping to a 3-1 victory with all the goals coming in the first half.

An early header from Kike Sola gave CA Osasuna a 1-0 home win over Real Zaragoza in a scrappy late game littered with yellow cards.

Barca traveled to Granada without Xavi and David Villa, and started with Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Carles Puyol on the bench.

The hosts had been lifted by the arrival of new coach Lucas Alcaraz, winning their first two games under him without conceding a goal.

Granada defeated Real Madrid 1-0 two weeks previously, when Cristiano Ronaldo headed an own-goal, and downed RC Deportivo de La Coruna 3-0 in their previous match.

Striker Odion Ighalo put them in front from close range after 26 minutes and they held Barca at bay until just after the restart, when Messi reacted quickly after Tono could only parry a Cesc Fabregas shot.

The Argentine added a second goal when his free-kick over the wall was too strong for Tono, who got a hand to the ball.

Barca then had to endure a shaky final few minutes, with Victor Valdes pulling off two late saves.

“These are the most important games because people write them off and they turn out to be the ones that win you La Liga,” Spain international midfielder Fabregas said.

Malaga took the game to Bilbao at La Rosaleda and loan signing from Chelsea, Lucas Piazon, set up the goal for Saviola when he dribbled to the byline and pulled the ball back for the striker to score.

Piazon and Isco were a constant threat in midfield, but Malaga were sloppy in defense at times and Caballero had to make a number of sharp saves to deny Bilbao.

The shaven-headed Argentine launched a counterattack at the end with a punched clearance and Joaquin fired just wide of the post after sprinting the length of the pitch.

Last year’s Europa League and Copa del Rey finalists Bilbao stayed sixth from bottom on 26 points, behind Granada on goal-difference.