Messi just one goal shy of record as Barcelona march on


Unbeaten leaders Barcelona pulled six points clear of chasing Atletico Madrid and set a record for the best start to a La Liga season when Lionel Messi scored twice in a 5-1 drubbing of Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

After an imperious Barca had crushed the struggling Basques at the Nou Camp, goals from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil dashed Atletico’s hopes of a first win against their city rivals in more than a decade.

Jose Mourinho’s side, in third place after a poor start to their title defence, turned in a dominant performance at the Bernabeu to put last week’s defeat at Real Betis firmly behind them and their 2-0 victory trimmed the gap to Atletico to five points.

Fourth-placed Malaga slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Getafe, while 10-man Valencia’s 5-2 drubbing at home to Real Sociedad left them in 12th place and prompted the club to sack coach Mauricio Pellegrino.

The 164th league meeting between Barca and Bilbao was another stroll for Tito Vilanova’s men, who were 3-0 ahead by half-time at the Camp Nou thanks to goals from Gerard Pique, Messi and Adriano.

Cesc Fabregas and Messi added two goals after the break, either side of an Ibai Gomez effort for Bilbao, with Argentine World Player of the Year Messi taking his tally for the season in La Liga to 21 in 14 matches, eight ahead of Ronaldo.

The 25-year-old is now only one short of the record haul for club and country in a calendar year of 85 set by Gerd Mueller in 1972.

Barca’s record of 13 wins and a draw improves on the previous best start to La Liga of 13 wins and a defeat by Real in the 1961-62 campaign.

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