BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – That’s 400 and counting.
Lionel Messi took his all-time Spanish league scoring record to 400 goals on Sunday after contributing to a 3-0 win over Eibar to keep defending champion Barcelona comfortably at the top of the Spanish league.
Messi scored Barcelona’s second goal shortly after halftime to reach a milestone in the competition after 435 league matches. Former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo is second all-time in La Liga with 311 goals.
In all competitions, Barcelona says the 31-year-old Messi has scored an astonishing 575 goals in 658 appearances.
“He is from another galaxy,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “They are incredible numbers. But he does much more than score goals, he also does so much to generate scoring chances for others.”
Barcelona’s all-time top scorer got the landmark goal in the 53rd minute after Luis Suarez passed to him inside Eibar’s area. The Argentine did the rest by opening an angle around a defender and driving in a low left-footed shot.
It was also Messi’s league-leading 17th league goal and his 23rd goal overall this season.
“He should be proud,” said Suarez, who scored Barcelona’s other two goals. “Game after game he shows what a great player he is. I am happy for him and for the history that he is writing for this club.”
Barcelona stayed five points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, which edged Levante 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Antoine Griezmann, as the league reached its midway point.
Suarez opened and concluded the scoring for Barcelona at Camp Nou.
The Uruguay striker exchanged two quick passes with Philippe Coutinho to break down Eibar’s backline before he skillfully directed a shot into the far corner of the net while falling down in the 19th.
Goalkeeper Asier Riesgo did well to turn back attempts by Suarez and Messi. But he was left all alone against Suarez when Sergi Roberto caught the defense out of position with a quick throw-in directly to Suarez, who shot past Riesgo from a tight angle in the 59th.
Suarez is second in the league behind Messi this season with 14 goals.
ATLETICO STAYS CLOSE
Griezmann ensured that Atletico stayed in touch with Barcelona.
Griezmann scored his team-leading ninth league goal of the season when he fired a spot kick over Levante goalkeeper Oier Olazabal in the 57th minute following a handball by defender Nikola Vukcevic.
Atletico dominated possession and the scoring chances but its lack of finishing touch meant it needed goalkeeper Jan Oblak to block a shot by Jose Morales to guarantee the victory.
The hosts thought they scored early through Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, but the referee disallowed the goal because of a foul at the start of the attack that he spotted during a video review.
Atletico defender Stefan Savic had to be substituted before 10 minutes were up due to muscle pain in his left thigh.
Third-placed Sevilla lost 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao, ending its unbeaten run in nine rounds.
Sevilla was left 10 points behind Barcelona.
Bilbao forward Inaki Williams scored both goals for the hosts to help lift them out of the relegation zone.
Later, fifth-placed Real Madrid can pull level on points with Sevilla if it wins at Real Betis.
Sevilla had won 3-1 at Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. They will meet again on Wednesday in Seville in the return leg of their round-of-16 game.
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