Messi brace downs Zaragoza
Lionel Messi scored a brace as Barcelona won 2-0 at ten-man Real Zaragoza today. The 23-year-old Argentinian has now scored four goals in four days as he followed up his brace in Wednesday's 2-0 UEFA Champions League win over FC Copenhagen.
For Barcelona it was a perfect fourth league away win although they were helped by the dismissal of Zaragoza's midfielder Leonardo Ponzio two minutes after the break for an off-the-ball incident. Messi had opened the scoring on 42 minutes and added a second on 66 minutes as he continues where he left off last season when he scored 34 goals in 35 league games to win the Pichichi crown for the league's top-scorer.
"Leo is a goalscorer," said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola after the game. "Even though he doesn't play as a central striker he has the goal on his mind and that's why he scores the number of goals he does."
Zaragoza sit bottom of the table after eight games as they wait for their first win of the campaign. Spanish 2010 FIFA World Cup™ star David Villa started against the club where he had two successful years while Gerard Pique was another returning old boy having had a loan season at Zaragoza when he was on Manchester United's books.
Barça had to do without midfielder Xavi as he continues to struggle with tendonitis but did welcome back first choice goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Barça were out of sorts early on and should have fallen behind on 18 minutes but striker Braulio Rodriguez could only muster a tame shot which Valdes saved easily.
Villa had a low shot saved in Barcelona's first opening on 27 minutes and the former Valencia forward then set up Pedro Rodriguez who was denied by a last-ditch sliding tackle. Villa was a real menace and created the opening goal on 42 minutes sucking in four Zaragoza players with a determined run before releasing Messi who held his nerve to slide home into the corner.
Two minutes after the break Zaragoza pressed the self-destruct button when Argentinian midfielder Ponzio was shown a straight red card for clipping Dani Alves on the ear off the ball. Messi almost scored his second just after the hour mark shooting at goalkeeper Antonio Doblas after receiving a lovely floated pass from Villa. However, Doblas had no chance on 66 minutes when a blocked shot rebounded to Messi and the Argentine thundered a left-footed drive into the corner.
Valencia, three points behind Barcelona, are also in action tonight when they host Real Mallorca at the Mestalla Stadium. Meanwhile, Real Madrid take on Racing Santander at the Bernebau. A win would see them go top of the table. Villarreal are level on points with Valencia and host Atletico Madrid tomorrow in the game of the weekend.