Barcelona forward Lionel Messi tonight broke Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year as his brace helped Tito Vilanova's side to victory at Real Betis. The Argentina international grabbed the opener in the 16th minute with a trademark dribble and finish to move level with the German striker, who achieved the feat in 1972.
His second goal of the evening, and 86th in a remarkable 2012, came with another left-footed shot past Betis goalkeeper Adrian after he had been teed up by Andres Iniesta after 25 minutes.
Betis headed into the game in fifth place in the Primera Division having beaten Real Madrid in their last home league match a fortnight ago. They got themselves back into the contest six minutes before the break as Martin Ruben Castro reduced the arrears from six yards out, converting Alvaro Vadillo's cross from the left.
They almost drew level eight minutes after the restart as Jorge Molina's floated cross was fumbled by Victor Valdes who, instead of flicking the ball over the bar, palmed it back into the six-yard area, forcing the Spanish international to dive on the loose ball. After 70 minutes the stopper was lucky once again as he failed to get anywhere near a corner and thankfully for the stopper the flicked header from Jose Alberto Canas rebounded off the post and back into his arms.
Pedro forced a decent save from Adrian a minute later before the hosts again hit the woodwork, this time Alejandro Pozuelo smashing an effort onto the post from just inside the area. Barça should have made the game safe with eight minutes left after a swivel and shot by Messi was parried by Adrian on to a post but the rebound from Jordi Alba crashed against the bar and flew over from close range.
Xavi's 25-yard free kick in the 87th minute came close to testing Adrian once again but didn't dip enough and went just over the crossbar, before Thiago blazed a shot wide from inside the area after he was played in by Messi. Betis pushed forward desperate to find the equalised with Adrian coming from forward for a 92nd minute corner, but Barça cleared and held on to go six points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top.