Barcelona: Barcelona forward Lionel Messi was unstoppable on Sunday as he demonstrated why his team fill the top spot in the Spanish league. Messi broke a 40-year record for most goals in a year by scoring his 85th and 86th goals of 2012 to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win at Real Betis.
Messi struck in the 16th and 25th minutes to break German great Gerd Mueller's 1972 record of 85 goals and give his team a 2-0 lead in Seville. Barcelona then struggled to hold on for its eighth win in as many away games after Ruben Castro halved the advantage for Betis before halftime, with both sides hitting the goal-frame various times in a wild second half.
"The record is nice, but the important thing is the win that keeps us on the patch we want to continue on," Messi said. Barcelona are now six points ahead of Atletico and 11 in front of defending champion Real Madrid. On Wednesday night, Messi feared the worst when he was carried off the pitch with a leg injury in Barcelona's Champions League draw with Benfica.
But the Argentina forward showed absolutely no signs of being slowed by his bruised knee, slicing through the hosts' defense to once more write his name in the history books. His first goal came when he received Andres Iniesta's pass, dribbled around two defenders and shifted gears to dribble into the box before ripping a shot into the far corner of the net.
Iniesta combined with Messi again for his second goal. The Spain midfielder flicked Messi's pass back to him for the Argentina forward to score with another left-footed effort. Betis, which beat Real Madrid in its last home game, was stunned until substitute Alberto Vadillo set up Castro inside the area to coolly shoot beyond goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 39th and ignite the packed Benito Villamarin stadium.
The goal invigorated Betis, and Valdes almost gifted Castro an equalizer when he spilled Salva Sevilla's lob off the crossbar and barely recovered in time to pull it in with Castro lurking. Betis almost equalized twice more.
Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano's poor clearance hit the post, before Alejandro Pozuelo rattled the crossbar with the visitors uncharacteristically losing control of the ball. Messi almost had a third goal late on after spinning and shooting, only for goalkeeper Adrian San Miguel to deflect the ball onto the upright. Barcelona defender Jordi Alba hit the crossbar from the rebound.