Madrid: Lionel Messi scored his 400th La Liga goal, a total his coach Ernesto Valverde called ‘monstrous’, as Barcelona terrorised Eibar to reclaim their five-point cushion at the top of the table.
Messi drove the ball into the bottom corner after being teed up by Luis Suarez, who added two goals to his own tally either side of the Argentinian marking another historic record at the Camp Nou, here, Sunday.
“It’s monstrous,” said Valverde, after the 3-0 victory. “It’s easy to say but you have to score them one after the other, it’s a long-term job. “His numbers are stratospheric, incredible. He is from another galaxy.”
Victory saw Valverde’s side restore their advantage over Atletico Madrid, who had briefly cut the gap to two points after beating Levante earlier in the day.
Real Madrid won too, beating Real Betis, to ensure Spain’s big three all prevailed in the same round for only the fourth time this season. Real remain 10 points adrift of Barcelona.
Messi, meanwhile, extended his own hefty lead as the division’s all-time top scorer, which currently stands at 89 goals, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. It took the Argentine 435 La Liga games to reach the 400 goals mark.
In fact, it was one of Messi’s quieter nights in terms of performance and in another team it might have been Suarez or Philippe Coutinho picking up the plaudits.
Suarez assisted Messi, applied a classy finish and was on the end of a scintillating team move for Barca’s first.
Messi’s moment came in the 53rd minute and it was Suarez who started it, stealing back possession after a heavy touch from Anaitz Arbilla. He bounced it off Coutinho and found Messi, who touched and rifled in.
The pressure had been cranked up a notch on Barca after Antoine Griezmann’s second half penalty earned Atletico a 1-0 victory over Levante.
Griezmann has now scored all of Atletico’s last six goals and his latest one proved the difference in a cagey contest at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The pressure has been on Real Madrid all season but they battled to a 2-1 win over Betis for their first league victory of 2019.
Luka Modric sent a thunderous shot into the top corner but Betis were in the ascendancy after Sergio Canales poked in a second half equaliser.
Marcelo had been dropped by Santiago Solari, Karim Benzema taken off with a dislocated finger and Isco remained on the bench, watching three youngsters sent on ahead of him. Ceballos, who left Betis for Real Madrid two years ago, was one of them.
With a free-kick on the edge of the area and goalkeeper Pau Lopez leaving his left-hand corner open, Ceballos duly sent a dipping shot into the gap to snatch a dramatic win.
All time La Liga top scorers
Player Goals Games Era
Lionel Messi 400 435 2004—
Cristiano Ronaldo 311 292 2009-2018
Telmo Zarra 251 278 1940-1955
Hugo Sanchez 234 347 1981-1994
Raul 228 550 1994-2010