Messi sets 50-goal mark as Barca stay eight clear | sports | Hindustan Times
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Messi sets 50-goal mark as Barca stay eight clear

sports Updated: Apr 24, 2011 09:19 IST

AFP
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Argentine superstar Lionel Messi became the first player to score 50 goals in a Spanish season as Barcelona maintained their eight-point lead over arch-rivals in the La Liga title race.

Messi reached the landmark when he found the target three minutes from time in his team's 2-0 win over Osasuna on Saturday.

He had already equalled the previous best mark of 49 goals scored by Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas when he netted in the 1-1 draw against Real last weekend.

Earlier on Saturday, Real and crushed Valencia 6-3 to set the foundation for Wednesday's mouth-watering Champions League semi-final first leg clash against Barcelona.

In midweek, Barca's hopes of a treble had come to an end when Real beat them 1-0 in the King's Cup final, but coach Pep Guardiola has shrugged it off saying that the league is their main priority.

However, ahead of another 'clasico' in the Champions League, Guardiola chose to leave the likes of Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta on the bench against Osasuna.

The impressive Jeffren Isaias supplied the 24th minute cross for Spain international David Villa to end one of his worst spells in front of goal when he fired passed the keeper after having gone eleven matches and two months without scoring.

Shortly before the break Barca keeper Victor Valdes made an excellent save at point blank range from Damia Abella while Javier Camunas also went close.

In the second half Barca tightened up and substitute Messi came on to secure the three points and his place in the record books.

Earlier, a second-string Real Madrid side romped to a 6-3 win over Valencia.

Coach Jose Mourinho fielded just Iker Casillas and Ricardo Carvalho from the side which beat Barcelona in the final of the King's Cup as he looked to rest his players before the two Spanish giants meet again in Europe.

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain made the most of his opportunity with a hat-trick while Brazilian star Kaka grabbed a brace.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring when the keeper failed to reach a Higuain pass and the Frenchman slotted passed two defenders on the line.

Higuain then slipped the ball home while defender Jeremy Mathieu dawdled in possession.

Still before half time Kaka and Higuain netted from crosses with the Valencia defence again ball watching.

After the break Valencia were a little better with Higuain completing a hat-trick before Roberto Saldado finally got the home side on the score sheet.

A piece of quality from Kaka saw him finish clinically after nutmegging a defender and then Valencia gave some respectability to the scoreline with goals from Jonas Goncalves and Jordi Alba.

"We want to finish the season well and with the feeling that we are capable of winning in any stadium. Our aim is that Barca win the league with the points they pick up and not those that we give away," said Mourinho.

"This is a competition in which we aren't favourites but after winning a trophy, we have won well here and played spectacular football. We did our job and have had two very tough games after each other."

There is little to choose between the teams competing for the Europa League with Athletic Bilbao in pole position at the moment.

They face a Basque derby against Real Sociedad who have been on their worst run of the season but got their first victory in eight attempts last weekend against Sporting Gijon.

Below Athletic are Sevilla, who take on Villarreal, and Atletico Madrid who play a Levante side that have had an excellent second half to the season.

Espanyol also remain in the hunt and they travel to Sporting Gijon.