Messi scores free-kick landmark goal and edges ahead of Ronaldo as Barca cope without Koeman

By Sports Desk May 02, 2021

Lionel Messi scored the 50th free-kick goal of his Barcelona career to fuel hopes of a stunning LaLiga title triumph.

Messi's two goals in a 3-2 victory at Valencia on Sunday took him to 28 league strikes for the season, and that also meant the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner stayed ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in their friendly long-distance rivalry.

Barca captain Messi's seasonal tally is one more than Juventus' former Real Madrid talisman Ronaldo has managed in the current Serie A campaign, after the Portuguese netted twice in a win at Udinese earlier on Sunday.

Both are leading the way in their respective leagues, and only 36-goal Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has scored more times than Messi in the top five European leagues in the current campaign.

Of Messi's stunning set-piece career haul, 39 of his free-kicks have come in LaLiga but few will have been as important as the curling strike that ultimately made sure of the points at Mestalla, giving Barcelona a 3-1 lead that was trimmed when Carlos Soler hit an excellent consolation.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman was a free-kick specialist himself, but he was absent from the touchline against Valencia.

That was because Koeman received a two-match touchline ban for the remonstrations during Thursday's shock defeat to Granada that saw him sent off.

In his place, Koeman's assistant Alfred Schreuder led the team, and it was down to the former Hoffenheim boss to dampen down excitement about this coming Saturday's clash between Barcelona and current leaders Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

Barcelona would go top of LaLiga by one point, for a little over 24 hours at least, should they win that game.

There are just four rounds of fixtures to come, and next week's games appear highly significant, given Real Madrid and Sevilla, the other two teams in title contention, also go head-to-head.

"We are all close," said Schreuder. "But we are there. We don't look at other teams, only at ourselves. Next week isn't a final, we have four matchdays in which we have to try to win.

"Yes, we trust our players to win LaLiga. We have reduced the gap to Atletico since January. We have competed well in these last three months."

The loss to Granada was a juddering result for Barcelona, but they had enough to fend off Valencia.

Messi missed a penalty but scored seconds later as the ball pinged around the Valencia 18-yard box, while Antoine Griezmann was also on target as Barcelona reacted positively to going behind early in the second half.

"We have shown character," Schreuder said. "We believed in what we were doing."

Related items

  • Real Madrid midfielder Kroos in isolation after close contact with positive COVID-19 case Real Madrid midfielder Kroos in isolation after close contact with positive COVID-19 case

    Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos has been placed in isolation after being in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus.

    All tests conducted on Kroos up until this point have come back negative but he is now at home as per COVID-19 protocols.

    Madrid are playing away against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in their penultimate LaLiga game of the season.

    They are locked in a thrilling title race with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, as their city rivals lead the standings by two points with only two matches to go.

    "Real Madrid reports that our player Toni Kroos is currently in isolation after being in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, although all tests carried out on the player have come back negative," read a statement from the club on Friday.

    It will be hoped that Kroos' situation does not evolve as Federico Valverde's did last month.

    Valverde initially had to isolate due to being a close contact before producing a positive test five days later which then ruled him out of a key Champions League match with Chelsea.

    Kroos has been a key figure for Madrid this season, featuring in 28 of their league matches.

    After a gruelling schedule, he was rested by Zinedine Zidane last time out against Granada ahead of the testing trip to San Mames.

  • Macarthur 3-1 Melbourne Victory: Derbyshire at the double Macarthur 3-1 Melbourne Victory: Derbyshire at the double

    Matt Derbyshire bagged a brace as Macarthur climbed up to second in the A-League with a 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory.

    Veteran striker Derbyshire seized upon a slack pass to dink home a cheeky finish in the fourth minute – the earliest goal by any Macarthur player in the A-League.

    The hosts were indebted to a magnificent point-blank save by Adam Federici from Rudy Gestede that preserved their lead – an advantage that was doubled in the 39th minute when wing-back James Meredith headed home Jake McGing's cross to crown a fine team move.

    Elvis Kamsoba reduced the deficit for second-bottom Victory after substitute Lleyton Brooks sprung the offside trap and his shot came back off the post.

    But Derbyshire was played in by Michael Ruhs to coolly slot home his 13th goal of the season, strengthening Macarthur's grip on a finals berth and moving them nine points behind runaway leaders Melbourne City.

  • Eder willing Lille and Fonte on to 'huge' Ligue 1 title triumph Eder willing Lille and Fonte on to 'huge' Ligue 1 title triumph

    Lille winning Ligue 1 would be "something huge for French football" according to their former striker Eder.

    Christophe Galtier's side could be crowned champions on Sunday when they host Saint-Etienne, if their result in that match betters Paris Saint-Germain's efforts against Reims.

    Even if the race goes to the final weekend, a three-point lead with two games to play and the title race being in Lille's hands represents a phenomenal achievement.

    PSG have won seven of the past eight top-flight titles in France, but Eder has observed a competition reborn this season – something he feels would be validated by Lille completing an unlikely march to glory.

    "I think it's amazing for the championship because a lot of people have been saying that the French championship is PSG and no others," he told Stats Perform.

    "I think that a lot of people, a lot of teams this year have been proving that they are there to compete with PSG, like Lyon and Monaco. They are having a great season.

    "Lille have been doing amazingly well and I think that this is going to be something huge for French football."

    Eder represented Lille between 2016 and 2018, a span that took in his undoubted career highlight – a goalscoring turn off the bench to snatch a 1-0 extra time victory for Portugal over hosts France in the final of Euro 2016.

    The Portuguese link at Lille remains strong, with veteran centre-back Jose Fonte and playmaker Renato Sanches team-mates of Eder's in Fernando Santos' Euro 2016 squad.

    Fonte and Sanches are joined by countrymen Tiago Djalo and Xeka in Galtier's side.

    "We have groups of chats, and we are always cheering for Jose Fonte," Eder added. "We have our fingers crossed and we hope that he is going to win."

    Fonte has played 35 of Lille's 36 Ligue 1 games this season.

    Of defenders to have played more than 20 times in the division, none can better the 37-year-old's 68.7 per cent duel success rate.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.