Messi breaks Muller record as Barça win
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to break the record for most goals scored in a European season as Barcelona kept alive their slim title hopes with a convincing win over Malaga.
Carles Puyol fired Pep Guardiola's side in front at the Nou Camp, only for that lead to be cancelled out by Jose Salomon Rondon. But Messi scored twice from the penalty spot before wrapping up his treble with a low drive to take his tally to 68 goals for the campaign, passing the previous mark of 67 set by Gerd Muller in 1972/73.
The win sees the Catalan club close the gap on Real Madrid to four points, although if their rivals beat Athletic Bilbao later this evening the title will head to the Spanish capital.
It was an emotional night at the Nou Camp as Barcelona played their first home game since Guardiola confirmed his intention to step down at the end of the season. Guardiola, who has won 13 trophies in four years in charge, has decided not to renew his contract when it expires on 30 June. He will be succeeded by his assistant Tito Vilanova.
His side caught a glimpse of goal in the opening minute when Dani Alves saw a shot from distance saved by Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. However, the hosts were given a scare after ten minutes when a free-kick from Sergio Duda beat goalkeeper Jose Pinto but came back off the post.
Barça's response was to score the opening goal three minutes later. Andres Iniesta whipped in a cross which was hammered home by defender Puyol. Kameni came to the rescue after 19 minutes to palm away a shot from Adriano, and Malaga were level in the 28th minute when Rondon directed a diving header into the net from Jesus Gamez's cross.
The parity did not last long though, with Gamez pulling down Iniesta in the box eight minutes later. Messi stepped up to take the spot-kick, placing his shot into the bottom left corner. Cesc Fabregas then put a header over the bar from Messi's inswinging corner two minutes before the interval as Barcelona looked to take a stranglehold on the match.
They managed to do just that after 58 minutes when Malaga gave away another penalty, this time for Duda's challenge on Messi. The Argentinian picked himself up and once again beat Kameni from the spot to move on to 67 goals for the season and level with Muller's record.
And a new milestone was set five minutes later with Iniesta again the provider with a pass which was swept home left-footed by Messi. Malaga tried to salvage some pride from the match, but Francisco Portillo curled his 20-yard shot wide after 78 minutes, while Ruud van Nistelrooy saw his volley saved by Pinto in the final minute.