Messi scores 2 as Barcelona strike force reaches 100 goals
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 07, 2016 10:02 AM
Barcelona's Jordi Alba, second right, celebrates with Lionel Messi, third right, Luis Suarez, right, Neymar, foreground and Iniesta, left, after Jordi scored a goal, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Levante and Barcelona, at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi continued his impressive form by scoring two goals in Barcelona's 4-0 win over Eibar in the Spanish league on Sunday, as the strike force of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar reached a total of 100 goals this season in all competitions.
It was the fourth goal, scored by Suarez after Messi's earlier brace, which brought up the scoring century, keeping the trio on track to beat the record of 122 set by them last season.
Messi scored with a great run in the 41st and added a penalty in the 76th, leaving Barcelona with an eight-point advantage over Atletico Madrid, which won 3-1 at Valencia to keep pace with 10 games to go.
Real Madrid remained 12 points behind Barcelona after trashing Celta Vigo 7-1 on Saturday with four goals by Cristiano Ronaldo.
"We are where we are thanks to our hard work," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "Now we enter the decisive stages of the season and we are fighting for titles but there are still a lot of points left. There are no guarantees that we will keep playing at this level. We will not get distracted by those saying that we have already won the league."
Messi is enjoying his best form of the season. The five-time world player of the year has scored 15 goals in the last 10 matches, and eight in the past four, staying on course to win his eighth league title with the Catalan club.
Munir El Haddadi opened the scoring in the eighth minute after a cross by Suarez, who netted his league-leading 26th goal in the 84th.
It was Barcelona's 11th straight win in the league. It hasn't lost in 36 consecutive games in all competitions. The last defeat for Enrique's squad was a 2-1 loss at Sevilla in the seventh round in October.
"Our motivation is to keep this lead until the end and win the title," Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano said. "We know there is still a lot of league left and any setback could give a chance to our opponents to move closer. It's a good advantage but we have to keep playing like this and avoid mistakes."
It was the fourth loss in a row for Eibar, which remains in eighth place in the standings.
Messi netted his 20th league goal with a remarkable run from near midfield that culminated with a low shot into the far corner. The Argentine star cleared two defenders before striking from inside the area.
He calmly converted the penalty kick prompted by a hand ball inside the area, sending his shot into the middle of the goal as the goalkeeper dived away.
Messi had scored a hat trick in the 5-1 rout of Rayo Vallecano on Thursday.
Munir, replacing suspended Brazilian striker Neymar, had opened the scoring with an easy goal from close range after a low cross by Suarez.
Suarez scored the fourth goal after sneaking the ball between the legs of a defender and firing a low shot from inside the box. The Uruguay striker hadn't scored in three matches following a run of seven straight games with at least one goal.
Suarez had missed the last two penalty kicks awarded for Barcelona, which is the team with the most penalty calls in its favor in the league this season with 14.
Suarez, Messi and Neymar scored 122 times last season to surpass the 118 goals netted by Real Madrid strikers Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain in 2011-12.
Atletico Madrid defeated Valencia with goals by French forward Antoine Griezmann in the 24th, substitute striker Fernando Torres in the 72nd and midfielder Yannick Carrasco in the 85th. Russian striker Denis Cheryshev scored Valencia's goal in the 28th.
Gary Neville's team was trying to win for the sixth time in seven games in all competitions. It was Valencia's second consecutive home loss in the league, dropping it to 11th in the standings.
Earlier Sunday, 10-man Real Betis defeated visiting Granada 2-0 to move further from the relegation zone. Betis defender Juan Manuel Vargas was sent off with a second yellow card in the 53rd.
Granada, 18th in the 20-team standings, had to use defender Cristiano Biraghi in goal in second-half injury time. That was after goalkeeper Andres Fernandez got a red card for touching the ball outside the area, a foul that led to Betis' final goal.
Athletic Bilbao won 2-0 at Sporting Gijon to move to sixth place and leave its opponent second-to-last on the table, while 10th-place Real Sociedad drew last-place Levante 1-1 at home.
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