November 18, 2012
  Follow @ Twitter

Messi double as Barca make record start to season

Lionel Messi hit a brace as Barcelona beat Zaragoza 3-1 to make the best ever start to a Liga season but Real Madrid kept in touch with a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

There were doubts that Tito Vilanova could take on the mantle left by Pep Guardiola this summer but he has proved himself in emphatic fashion with the team notching up eleven wins and a draw so far that leaves them six points clear at the top and eight ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Messi opened the scoring but while Francisco Montanes brought Zaragoza level, Alex Song restored the advantage before the break. Messi got his second and his 17th of the season to ensure a victory and another record with Barca's start beating those of Real Madrid in the 1968-69 and the 1991-92 seasons.

"It was an excellent performance from the team and Leo is a key player but he doesn't do it on his own and has great players around him," said Vilanova afterwards.

Madrid have an uphill task to now catch Barca but the ease with which they took apart Athletic suggests they are on the right track.

A deflected shot from Karim Benzema off Jon Aurtenetxe put them ahead after 12 minutes and then Sergio Ramos and Benzema again gave them a commanding lead. Ibai Gomez reduced the arrears before the break but Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira made it a heavy defeat for sorry Athletic.

Barca had their preferred centre-half pairing of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol available for the first time since mid-September due to injuries and Song was chosen ahead of Javier Mascherano to play the defensive midfield role with Sergio Busquets suspended.

The main surprise for Zaragoza was the decision to play Carlos Aranda in attack rather than the in-form Helder Postiga with the likely reason that he is more of a team player who drops deep than an out-and-out striker.

Injuries and suspension forced Zaragoza to field makeshift defence with Raul Goni coming in at left back and Adam Pinter in the centre, and they struggled from the start especially on the left.

Jordi Alba crossed for Messi in the first minute and though he shot just wide the Argentine did put Barca ahead after 15 minutes with Alba again the supplier.

Messi was given plenty of room in the heart of the defence to pick his spot and slotted past keeper Roberto Jimenez.

Barca were looking lively and passing the ball with fluidity despite the fact that a number had been away on international duty during the week, but Zaragoza drew level out of the blue.

The home side failed to clear a corner with full-back Martin Montoya only finding the edge of the area where Montanes fired the ball back in and it found the back of the net after taking a slight deflection off Puyol.

With the ease that Barca were opening up Zaragoza there was little alarm among the Catalan faithful and five minutes later it was their idol Messi who set up the second goal. He pulled the ball back from the deadball line for Song to score a rare goal. Barca continued to dominate the game but Zaragoza looked dangerous when they did attack with Victor Rodriguez and Montanes going close with shots from distance before the break.

The home side then dropped their level with passes going astray, giving some hope to Zaragoza on the counter-attack.

But Messi responded to wrap the game up with half an hour to go with another clinical finish. This time he was found by the right full-back Montoya and he found the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Earlier, a contentious late penalty by Roberto Soldado condemned nine-man Espanyol to a 2-1 defeat by Valencia.

Bottom-side Espanyol more than held their own after Samuele Longo equalised Jonathan Viera's opener but minutes from the end Hector Moreno was adjudged to have handled in the area. Replays suggest the ball hit his chest.

Moreno and Sergio Garcia were dismissed for complaining.

Elsewhere, Malaga drew 0-0 away to Osasuna.


Football Live

Clarke draws positives from drawn Test
Five-star Best helps West Indies rout Bangladesh

Post a Comment
Bookmark and Share


Posted Comments
No comments, but you can post the first comment!



Namaka, 4R through to NCC finals
Last seasonís runners up Namaka FC of Nadi and former champs 4R Electric FC of Ba have progressed to next weekendís Rooster National Club Championship finals after topping their respective pools in Western zone playoff today.
Fiji U20 wallops PNG in opener
The Vodafone Fiji U20 side opened its campaign on a positive note and walloped Papua New Guinea 63-0 at the ANZ Stadium in Suva last night.
High Court acquits Colombian national
The High Court in Suva has acquitted Colombian national Aiden Alec Hurtado from charges of unlawful importation of 20.5 kg of illicit drugs namely cocaine into Fiji last year.
Obama unveils gun violence proposals
President Barack Obama today demanded an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun buyers, stoking a generational clash with the firearms lobby after the Newtown school massacre.
Afghan street kid heads for the Oscars red carpet
An Afghan street kid is off to Hollywood and the red-carpet treatment at the Oscars -- a fairytale ending to a chance encounter that led to a starring role in a movie.
Online registration for foreign investors
Fiji will soon launch online registration and approvals system for foreign investors.