Lionel Messi marked the 10-year anniversary of his Barcelona debut by scoring his 250th league goal and providing an assist to see off Eibar 3-0 and keep the Catalans top of the Primera Division ahead of next week’s El Clasico.
The Basque minnows produced a dogged performance at the Nou Camp but their resistance tumbled just before the hour mark when Messi assisted Xavi Hernandez. Neymar then volleyed in a second and Messi rounded off the scoring to take him to just one strike away from equaling former Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra’s record of 251 Primera Division goals.
Barca’s all-time scorer now has the opportunity to become the league’s all-time marksman next week at the home of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who trail Barca by four points in the table.
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Eibar coach Gaizka Garitano set up his side in an ultra-defensive manner, binning his usual 4-4-2 formation in favor of a 5-3-2. Luis Enrique also tinkered with his team, resting Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets in favour of a midfield two of Sergi Roberto and Javier Mascherano, with Pedro replacing Munir El Haddadi. Ivan Rakitic was left out for the second game in a row.
It was no surprise that Barca did all of the attacking. Gerard Pique’s header over the cross bar was their first effort, then Messi was denied at the near post by Xabi Irureta and later in the half the Argentinian shuffled into the box but shot just a few inches wide of the top corner.
Despite Barca’s dominance of possession, the best chance of the first half fell to Eibar. Ander Capa rounded Claudio Bravo after a through ball but inexplicably shot wide of the near post with the goal gaping.
A few minutes later Xavi forced Irureta to get down low and palm away his 20-yard shot for a corner. Messi then got on to a cross from Pedro but headed into the hands of Irureta, and at the other end Saul Berjon was clean through on goal but was thwarted by Bravo, who is still yet to concede a goal for Barca in a competitive game.
Eibar did a good job of containing their hosts at the start of the second half too but finally caved in just before the hour mark. Xavi carried the ball forward from midfield and played in Messi. The midfielder followed his run while Messi waited and then slipped the ball into the path of the 34-year-old to break the deadlock and score his first goal of the season.
Barca were unleashed after taking the lead and Pedro nearly got another goal immediately, racing on to a pass from Xavi, but could not quite fit his shot under Irureta, who was able to gather. The goalkeeper then came to his side’s aid again, turning Messi’s lashed effort around the near post. But Barca would not be denied more goals. Xavi played a short pass to Dani Alves on the right wing, and the right-back picked out his compatriot Neymar in the area to volley home his eighth league goal this season.
But no Barcelona victory would be complete without a Messi goal, and the club’s talisman stepped up in his usual manner in the 75th minute, playing a one-two with Neymar in the left-hand side of the area before smashing the ball in off the far post and into the net.