Lionel Messi broke Gerd Müller’s 40-year-old record for goals in a calendar year as Barcelona won 2-1 at Real Betis.
Barca have struggled against Real Betis in the past, failing to win in their last four trips to Seville, and they have to count themselves lucky to have gotten all three points here.
Messi, who made a remarkable recovery after being carried off on a stretcher in midweek, started for Barcelona and his first-half goal equalled Müller’s benchmark of goals for club and country set in 1972. The Argentinian wizard then broke it in style, cracking a shot inside the right post from Andrés Iniesta’s backheel.
Rubén Castro halved the deficit before the break as Betis threatened to spoil the party, and the hosts came close to an equaliser on a number of occasions in a frantic second half, during which both sides struck the woodwork. Barça held firm, however, to record their 14th win of a still unbeaten Liga campaign.
Atlético Madrid’s own South American sensation, Falcao, scored five times in an emphatic 6-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruña. Diego Costa headed an opener before Falcao stole the show with a fine double, the second an exquisite 20-metre half-volley, to give the Rojiblancos an unassailable half-time lead. The insatiable Colombian hitman added three more in seven breathless second-half minutes to become the first player since Fernando Morientes to notch five goals in a Liga match.
The form of Messi and Falcao sets up nicely this weekend’s clash at the Camp Nou between La Liga’s two best sides this season. It should be an enthralling contest.
Lastly, there were home wins elsewhere for Levante and Athletic Bilbao, who beat Mallorca 4-0 and Celta 1-0 respectively.