Messi again reaches 40 goals easily

Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez appealing for a penalty when brought down by Valencia's Eliaquim Mangala at the Nou Camp Stadium. The French defender was sent off and Lionel Messi put the hosts 2-1 up from the spot. Barca won 4-2.
Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez appealing for a penalty when brought down by Valencia's Eliaquim Mangala at the Nou Camp Stadium. The French defender was sent off and Lionel Messi put the hosts 2-1 up from the spot. Barca won 4-2.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA • Barcelona coach Luis Enrique paid tribute to talisman Lionel Messi on Sunday, after the Argentinian scored twice in a 4-2 win over Valencia to rack up at least 40 goals in all competitions for the eighth year in a row.

Messi put Barca 2-1 up just before half-time from the penalty spot and then latched on to a pass from compatriot Javier Mascherano to slam the ball beyond Diego Alves' near post and hit his 25th league goal of the campaign.

The 29-year-old has also scored 11 times in the Champions League, four in the King's Cup and one in the Spanish Super Cup - with his current tally standing at 41.

He first scored 40 goals in a single campaign in the 2009-10 season and has repeated that feat every season since.

"It's amazing, he's broken every record and will continue to break more," Enrique told reporters. "How marvellous it is to enjoy Messi, no one can touch his numbers, it's impossible for anyone to do what he has done apart from him. We'll miss him when he's gone."

Eliaquim Mangala had opened the scoring in the 29th minute at the Nou Camp for Valencia - who are owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim - before he was sent off for pulling Luis Suarez down in the box in the 44th minute which resulted in Messi converting the spot kick.

Suarez had equalised in the 35th minute and Andre Gomes sealed the win just before the end. Munir El Haddadi had levelled for Valencia in first-half injury time.

Barcelona closed to within two points of Real Madrid (65) - who beat Bilbao 2-1 on Saturday - at the top of La Liga but Zinedine Zidane's have a game in hand over their title rivals.

"We created a huge number of chances and deserved to win by a bigger margin," Enrique told Spanish TV station Movistar.

"Against an opponent with very good players we've picked up three valuable points."

Valencia coach Salvador "Voro" Gonzalez admitted his side made costly errors but was proud of the way his team played.

"We have made mistakes and it is clear that we have to improve," said Voro, whose side lie in 14th.

He added that he is already thinking of the next league game when Deportivo La Coruna visit the Mestalla Stadium on April 3.

"They will be three fundamental points (for us)," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Messi again reaches 40 goals easily'. Print Edition | Subscribe