News Column

Messi Breaks Mueller's Goals Record, Keeping Barcelona On Top

December 11, 2012

Duncan Shaw

Lionel Messi broke Gerd Mueller's 1972 record of 85 goals in a calendar year on Sunday, banging in an early brace in Barcelona's 2-1 win at fifth-placed Real Betis.

The win maintained Barca's record-breaking start and kept them six points ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid.

Earlier Sunday, Atletico slaughtered hapless Deportivo Coruna 6-0, with Colombian idol Radamel Falcao becoming the first Atletico player to score five goals in a league match.

Messi had to pass a late fitness test to play against Betis and equalled Mueller's record of 85 goals in the 16th minute, with a dribble on the edge of the area followed by a precise low, left-footed drive.

The FIFA World Footballer left Mueller behind and moved onto 86 goals just 10 minutes later, making it 2-0. He played a clever one-two with Andres Iniesta, then let fly again with his trusty left foot, beating Betis keeper Adrian for the second time.

Not everything was plain sailing for Barca.

Cesc Fabregas and Carles Puyol both limped off with pulled muscles, and Ruben Castro pulled a goal back for Betis after being set up by Alvaro Vadillo.

In the second half, Barca keeper Victor Valdes had to pull off two spectacular saves to keep his team in the lead. In addition, Betis midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo hit Valdes' post with a fierce long drive.

At the other end, Jordi Alba missed a wide-open goal for Barca after Messi had hit the post.

With his typical modesty, Messi said: "The record is very nice because of what it means but the victory is more important because we keep our lead at the top. It is not easy to win here. This is a very important win for us."

Messi, 25, has scored his 86 goals in 66 games for Barca and Argentina. Forty years ago, Mueller scored his 85 goals in 60 games for Bayern Munich and West Germany.

Barca coach Tito Vilanova, who has guided his team to a record-breaking start in La Liga, said: "We hope he still has more goals in him, because he is still young. I don't think we'll ever see another player like him. He is a global star because he has everything, and he understands everything about the game. In the second half we needed him to help in defence, and he did exactly that."

Atletico Madrid had earlier put pressure on Barca with their 6-0 destruction of Deportivo, in which Falcao left behind a flat November - by his high standards - with a memorable exhibition of marksmanship.

He is now second on the scorers' chart with 16 goals, seven less than majestic Messi.

Atletico are five points ahead of third-place Real Madrid, who beat them 2-0 in the December 1 capital derby.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone said: "I am happy with this. I really don't know when an Atletico player will score five goals again. Today Falcao was amazing."

The latest defeat left Deportivo joint bottom with Espanyol and will probably spell the sack for coach Jose Oltra.

Earlier Sunday, Levante and Athletic Bilbao scored important home wins against lowly teams Mallorca and Celta Vigo.

Levante trounced Mallorca 4-0 with goals from Obafemi Martins, David Navarro, Ruben and Vicente Iborra, taking the Valencia-based team up to sixth. Mallorca are fourth from bottom and facing a grim relegation struggle.

Bilbao beat troubled Celta Vigo 1-0, the lone goal coming in the 34th minute when veteran striker Aritz Aduriz headed in a centre from the promising Ibai Gomez.

Celta are now sixth from bottom, while Bilbao moved up to 13th.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH