Lionel Messi scores on 500th Barcelona appearance

425th goal for the club helps set up 4-0 win over Real Betis and move Barca top of La Liga

Lionel Messi scored on his 500th Barcelona appearance to help set up a 4-0 win over Real Betis. Photograph: Getty

Lionel Messi scored on his 500th Barcelona appearance to help set up a 4-0 win over Real Betis. Photograph: Getty

 

Lionel Messi scored his 425th goal on his 500th Barcelona appearance to help his side to a 4-0 victory against Real Betis.

Luis Suarez and Neymar also shone as Barca signed off a memorable 2015 with a comfortable win that keeps them top of the Primera Division.

The Catalans took the lead after 29 minutes as Betis defender Heiko Westermann inadvertently sent the ball into his own net after Neymar had hit the crossbar from the penalty spot and moments later the Brazilian laid a pass on for Messi to score on a landmark appearance for the club.

Suarez added two further goals in the second half, while Neymar was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet, hitting the woodwork for a second time later on.

Luis Enrique’s side stay joint top of the Primera Division with Atletico Madrid heading into 2016 but have played one game fewer than Diego Simeone’s men.

Although Pepe Mel’s visitors made an ambitious start to the game, once Messi had tapped in the second goal the game as a contest was all but over and the serene manner in which Barcelona ended the year, five trophies better off, could not have contrasted greater than with how they started it.

Barca’s year began on a rainy and windswept night in San Sebastian against David Moyes’ Real Sociedad, with Neymar and Messi sitting on the bench as they fell behind to an own goal by Jordi Alba.

That 1-0 defeat lead to president Josep Maria Bartomeu calling elections a year ahead of schedule and also saw sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta sacked, while the fallout from Luis Enrique’s decision to start the game without Messi also threatened to bring the coach’s tenure to a swift conclusion.

But thanks to the combined talents and understanding of their attacking trident, Barca brushed their problems aside to win the Primera Division, Copa del Rey, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup, adding the FIFA Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet before Christmas with a classy 3-0 victory over River Plate.

Luis Enrique made three changes from the team that conquered the world in Yokohama, resting Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Alba and replacing them with Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Roberto, but the usual front three remained untouched.

Betis made a promising start and talented teenager Dani Ceballos gave the hosts a fright when he raced into the area and could only be stopped by a well-timed challenge by Dani Alves.

But the Andalusians were undone by a controversial decision to award Barcelona a penalty after an untimely collision between goalkeeper Antonio Adan and Messi. Adan punched a cross away from goal and clashed with the Argentinian after making contact with the ball and referee Inaki Vicandi Garrido baffled the Betis players by pointing to the spot.

Both players were affected by the impact of the collision but Messi came off worse and was unable to take the penalty.

Neymar took responsibility instead but slipped as he went to strike the ball, which hit the crossbar but rebounded into the net off the boot of Westermann, who had tried to prevent Ivan Rakitic from getting to the loose ball.

To the relief of the Nou Camp faithful, Messi got back onto the pitch and immediately combined with Neymar, playing a one-two and then heading into the box to nudge the Brazilian’s squared pass into an empty net.

Betis were all but out of the game at this point and Barcelona went on to dominate what remained of it. Sergio Busquets recovered the ball high up the pitch and quickly gave it to Suarez who calmly struck past Adan.

Neymar, Alves and then Messi each hit the woodwork as Barca looked to twist the knife, and with seven minutes left Suarez got the fourth goal, starting the move then latching on to Neymar’s back-heel to stab home from close range.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.