MADRID • Barcelona boss Luis Enrique described the fortune to have Lionel Messi on his side a "privilege" after the Argentinian become the first player ever to bring up a triple century of La Liga goals.
Messi scored twice in a 3-1 win at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday to take his tally to 301 league goals in 335 games as Barca extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.
The five-time World Player of the Year broke the deadlock in the 25th minute with a deadly accurate drive into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Yet, the lead lasted only two minutes as a brilliant counter-attack saw Pablo Perez pick out Alex Menendez on the left and his low cross was swept home at the back post by Carlos Castro.
Barca promptly responded, though, as Luis Suarez showed great strength to hold the ball up and then lay it off for Messi to fire into the roof of the net with the outside of his left foot.
MESSI'S HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi on Wednesday became the first La Liga player to score 300 goals.
ALL-TIME LA LIGA TOP SCORERS
Cristiano Ronaldo *
BREAKDOWN OF MESSI'S MILESTONE
Home: 172 (in 166 games)
Away: 129 (in 168 games)
First goal: Versus Albacete at Nou Camp, May 1, 2005
Top scoring season: 2011-12 - 50 goals in 37 games
Best scoring run: 21 games from Nov 2012-May 2013
ALL-TIME EUROPEAN LEAGUES' TOP SCORERS
Germany - Gerd Mueller 365
England - Jimmy Greaves 357
Spain - Lionel Messi 301
France - Delio Onnis 299
Italy - Silvio Piola 290
"To be able to count on Leo is always a privilege, no matter how the opponent plays," said Enrique.
The only negative for the European champions was another missed penalty, this time by Suarez.
Messi had caused a worldwide sensation by passing a spot-kick into Suarez's path to complete his hat-trick in the 6-1 rout of Celta Vigo at home on Sunday.
Between Messi, Suarez and Neymar, Barca have now missed seven of their 15 directly-taken penalties this season.
"We want to improve in that aspect, but those that miss them are the ones that take the responsiblity to hit them," said Enrique. "We have confidence in Leo, Luis and Ney. They are great penalty takers."
This miss mattered little, though, as Suarez made amends with a terrific finish for his 40th goal of the season 23 minutes from time.
Barca are now heavy favourites to seal a fifth La Liga title in seven years.
The Catalan giants have 60 points from 24 matches, six more than second-placed Atletico Madrid and seven ahead of Real Madrid.
The match at El Molinon had been postponed due to Barcelona's commitments in the Club World Cup in December.
"I am optimistic in any situation and this is a favourable one," added Enrique. "But that doesn't mean anything because we all know that when the final games of the season approach, especially the last 10, the teams in trouble begin to win games and it becomes very difficult to take the points.
"We are where we want to be and we depend on ourselves."