At the rate he is going, Lionel Messi should wind up as the all-time La Liga scorer in about a year.
The amazing Argentinean continued a scoring pace no one in the world could come close to, matching in Barcelona's 3-1 home triumph over Rayo Vallecano.
Not only did Messi score in a record 18th consecutive match, he also moved into seventh place in the Spanish league's all-time scoring list past Pahino with 211 goals.
The 25-year-old Messi trails only Telmo Zarra (251), Hugo Sanchez (234), Raul Gonzalez (228), Alfredo di Stefano (227), Cesar Rodriguez (223) and Quini (219).
He has scored 42 goals this season and 55 in all competitions.
And Messi actually pulled off another first – he captained the team for the first time in a competitive match. He received that honor when Andres Iniesta was subbed out in the 63rd minute and was given the captain's armband.
“Life is a lot easier when you have Leo Messi," said Barca assistant coach Jordi Roura, who is guiding the team while head coach Tito Vilanova recovers from cancer treatments. "You have to enjoy it on a daily basis when you have the best player in the world on your team."
Messi was involved in each of Barca's three goals. He set up David Villa's strike in the 25th minute before Villa did the same for the Argentine in the 40th minute. Messi's chip shot gave Barca a 3-0 lead in the 57th minute.
It was not all good news for Barca. Brazilian defender Adriano, who tore his right hamstring, will be sidelined from four to six weeks.
With 10 matches remaining in the season, Barca (24-2-2, 74 points) hold a 13-point lead over defending champion Real Madrid (19-5-4, 61).
Gonzalo Higuain, Giovani dos Santos
Real Mallorca awakened a sleeping giant in Real Madrid. Twice Mallorca took early leads as Madrid stormed back to post an emphatic 5-2 home win. Emilio Nsue had given the visitors a sixth-minute lead, heading home a cross by Mexican dos Santos, before Argentine Higuain equalized with the first of his two goals in the 15th minute.
But Alejandro Alfaro lifted Mallorca into a 2-1 edge in the 21st minute. The score stayed that way until the second half, when Madrid struck for three goals within a stunning, five-minute span. Cristiano Ronaldo deadlocked the game at 2-2 in the 52nd minute. Luka Mordric gave the hosts the lead two minutes later before Higuain tallied his second in the 57th minute. Higuain also set up Karim Benzema's score two minutes into stoppage time to close out the rout.
An Argentine central defender, Diego Colotto scored Espanyol's first goal of its 2-0 blanking of host Malaga. Colotto tallied in the 49th minute.
Alejandro Gomez, Luis Muriel
Gomez, an Argentinean midfielder, bagged a brace in the second half to lift Catania to a 3-1 win over visiting Udinese. Gomez struck in the 49th and 67th minutes, helping the hosts to a 2-0 advantage. After Francesco Lodi made it 3-0 in the 71st minute, Colombian Muriel scored a consolation goal for Udinese.
Edinson Cavani, German Denis, Carlos Carmona, Juan Camilo Zuniga
After enduring eight consecutive matches without scoring a goal, Cavani finally was on target, not once, but twice for Napoli in its 3-2 triumph over Atalanta. The Uruguayan, who leads Serie A in scoring (20 goals), ended his scoring drought in the fourth minute. Zuniga. A Colombian, was fouled in the penalty area and Cavani converted for his 19th league goal this season for a 1-0 lead.
He did not have to wait very long for No. 20. Cavani scored off a superb effort in the 65th minute. He took a short pass from Goran Pandev, scored off his first touch into the far corner for a 2-1 lead. Denis, an Argentinean, equalized in the 73rd minute before Pandev tallied the game-winner in the 81st. Carmona, a Chilean, almost scored for Atalanta as his free kick bounded of the crossbar.
Pastore, an Argentine, tallied in the ninth minute to give Paris Saint-Germain a 1-0 lead as David Beckham made his first Ligue 1 start, but the visitors could not hold a two-goal advantage en route to a 2-2 draw with Saint-Etienne.
The Argentine was the only offense Olymique Lyon could muster in its 4-1 pasting at Bastia. Lopez knotted the match at 1-1 in the 54th minute, but could Bastia rattled off three consecutive goals to settle the matter.
The Mexican goalkeeper was at the top of his game, stopping everything Olimpique Marseille sent his way as he helped preserve a scoreless draw for AC Ajaccio. Ochoa was sharp as the hosts fired 21 shots at his net. Early on, he denied Jordan Ayew’s angled shot in the 15th minute and stopped Andre-Pierre Gignac in the 26th minute. He was called on to make a fabulous save on Amodou Sougou’s toe-poke shot in the 63rd minute.
Oscar Cardozo, Eaequiel Garay, Eduardo Salvio, Rodrigo
Four foreigners found the back of the net for league-leading Benfica in its 4-0 trouncing of Vitoria Guimarares. Cardozo, a Paraguayan, converted a first-half penalty kick before Benfica took advantage of a Vitoria red card in the second half. Garay and Salvio, who both hail from Argentina, also scored, as did Spaniard Rodirigo.
The Colombian gave Porto a 1-0 lead, but the team could not hold it in a 1-1 tie with Maritimo.
The striker prepared for Costa Rica's World Cup qualifying run, scoring the equalizing goal in Real Salt Lake's 1-1 Major League Soccer home tie with the Colorado Rapids. Saborio leveled the match at 1-1 in the 80th minute. U.S. Under-20 international Luis Gil picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area before feeding substitute Joao Plata on the right side. Plata played Saborio a through ball to the edge of the six-yard box and the Costa Rican let loose a low, hard shot inside the far post. The Ticos will visit the United States in Commerce City, Colo. on Friday and host Jamaica in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 26
Espindola twice came close to scoring for the New York Red Bulls in their scoreless home draw with D.C. United. The Argentine striker crashed the ball off the crossbar in the 24th and 56th minutes.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He is in Columbus to cover Sunday’s game, and can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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