La Liga Wrap Up: Messi the greatest, Moyes’ debut, Valencia and Sevilla drop off the pace

Leo Messi celebrates his record with his teammates.

It was the week where Valencia and Sevilla, this season’s surprise packets dropped slightly off the pace; Valencia losing a derby 2-1 to Levante, while Sevilla were humbled by Barcelona; and the top three all picked up wins ensuring a Real-Barca-Atleti top three. This weekend was all about Messi though, who overtook Telmo Zarra as La Liga’s greatest ever goalscorer with a superb hat-trick at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona had been unconvincing in recent weeks, and faced a tough-looking contest against Sevilla, who were still in the early title-race conversation despite some poor results themselves. With Telmo Zarra’s record in his sights though, Leo Messi took it upon himself to pick up the three points, and to write his name into Spanish football’s history books (again).

All three strikes were representative of the best of Messi: a superb dead-ball; pace on the break; and incredible touch and control around the edge of the area to fire through a defence.

Goal 251, the leveler, was inch-perfect. With a free-kick won on the edge of the area to the left-hand side, Xavi stood over the ball alongside Messi – but only one of them was ever going to take it. The Argentine stepped up and curled the ball over the wall, dipping into the top left-hand corner, out of reach of Beto.

The record-breaker, goal 252, saw scenes of celebration and jubilation between Messi and his teammates inside the Camp Nou. Barca won the ball on the halfway line and Messi charged at the defence in a three-on-two, with Neymar and Suarez flanking him. At the opportune moment he played the ball into Neymar, who got in behind the Sevilla centre-backs and then, unselfishly, laid the ball on a platter for his teammate at the far post. Messi slid in to finish from two yards before he was mobbed by his teammates and hoisted into the air. A 59-year-old record broken. The Camp Nou chanted his name. La Liga’s all-time top scorer at 27, in only his 289th league match.

253, to pull one further goal away, was classic Messi. Receiving the ball on the right, Messi cut inside along the edge of the box, jinking past two defenders before laying off to Neymar around the penalty spot. The Brazilian returned the ball with one touch, setting it up for Messi to power home into the bottom corner past several Sevilla defenders. Vintage.

The scoreline was perhaps flattering for Luis Enrique’s Blaugrana, as Sevilla were very much in the game for the best part of an hour, as they immediately pegged back Messi’s late first-half opener via a Jordi Alba own-goal two minutes after the half-time interval. The scores weren’t level for long though, as some poor defending from a set-piece undid their good work of only minutes prior, when Xavi’s free-kick was floated in and Neymar headed into the bottom corner with ease.

On 65 minutes Barca put them out of reach, as Suarez was played into space on the right and picked out former Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic at the far post, to score against his old club.

Messi’s final two goals followed in the 72nd and 78th minutes, ensuring a comprehensive 5-1 victory for the home side and keeping them only two points behind leaders Real.

In the post-match pressers, the compliments flowed for the record-breaker.

“I am lucky to be able to train him every day. He cannot be compared with any other player, he will ultimately be a unique and unrepeatable player,” said his manager, Luis Enrique, while Sevilla boss Unai Emery lamented the fact that they were “special guests” at Messi’s party.

Meanwhile, the man himself said the following, alongside a video of his first competitive goal:

“When I scored this goal, I couldn’t imagine I could break any record, let alone this one previously held by the great Telmo Zarra. I was only able to achieve this because of the support I have had from so many people during my time here and I would like to dedicate this achievement to you all. Thanks for always being with me. I would also like to dedicate this to the people who are no longer with us anymore. I will never forget you. Thank you everyone for standing with me!”

Leo Messi celebrates his record with his teammates.
Leo Messi celebrates his record with his teammates.

Real Madrid made their first league visit to Ipurua, the tiny home ground of La Liga debutantes Eibar, and were unfazed by the unfamiliar surroundings recording a 4-0 victory.

Eibar came flying out of the blocks, and probably had the better of the opening exchanges, but Real Madrid’s quality shone through as they made their way into the match and took control when James Rodriguez gave them the lead – though Karim Benzema was clearly offside in the build-up. Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale both had good chances to increase Real’s advantage not long after, but it wasn’t until Cristiano Ronaldo had his best chance of the game that they went 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time.

Real played at a lower tempo in the second half, hoping to sap the energy out of the home side who just couldn’t match the quality of their opposition. Karim Benzema made it 3-0 in the 69th minute and a late penalty was awarded which Ronaldo duly dispatched to claim a 4-0 victory – his 20th of the season – with the scoreline perhaps a little unfair on the home side.

Ronaldo scored again.
Ronaldo scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season against Eibar.

David Moyes made his Spanish managerial debut and his Real Sociedad drew 0-0 away to Deportivo. Typically British conditions welcomed the former Everton and Manchester United boss, ans the rain poured down in the Galician city of A Coruña. And it was a typically Moyes performance to match, a more intense, determined Real Sociedad team set out against Depor, and the 0-0 draw meant that it was their first clean sheet of the season. La Real were perhaps the better side, but a dip in quality in the second half enjoyed the match remained scoreless, with Carlos Vela blazing the game’s best chance narrowly over the bar.

Moyes, while feeling it was a fair result, was disappointed to not come away with the three points.

“I am very happy to have made my debut in La Liga,” said the Scottish manager. “I wanted to win and I am not happy with the draw because we worked hard. But in the end it was a fair result.

“It is true that I don’t know the players that much, but I am delighted to be here and little by little we will improve. We didn’t change that much but we need time to get to know each other and we’re without four important players.  I’m happy with the attitude.”

David Moyes took control of his first La Liga match away to Deportivo.
David Moyes took control of his first La Liga match as Real Sociedad boss away to Deportivo.

Athletic Bilbao continued their impressive recent form, unbeaten in their last five while taking 11 of the 15 available points, with a 3-1 win over Espanyol. Aritz Aduriz opened the scoring when his header was deflected in, before he superbly set up Viguera to double the lead. Aduriz controlled the ball with his chest near halfway, held off a defender as he spun towards goal before perfectly weighting a pass to play in Viguera who finished first time with the outside of his boot. Ander Iturraspe put the game completely out of reach with a wicked long-range strike in the 78th minute before Victor Sanchez pulled back a consolation goal six minutes from time.

Rayo Vallecano made headlines during the week for reasons outside of football, as Paco Jemez and his players committed to finding Vallecas resident Carmen Martinez Ayudo a new home after the widow was evicted following her son defaulting on a loan, and recorded a 1-0 win on the pitch against Celta Vigo. The club have confirmed they will be assisting with her search for a new home and will help pay the rent, while also setting up a foundation to help others in a similar situation. Vallecas is known as a predominantly working class and community-focused area, and banners on show during the match reinforced the strong feeling of togetherness as fans demonstrated their support for the woman.

Elsewhere, Levante pulled off a huge upset in their derby against Valencia, recording a 2-1 win thanks to a late goal from Morales, just one minute after Dani Parejo had drawn Valencia level in the 73rd minute. The result sees Valencia drop back to fourth place, as there are now two points separating each position in the top four.

And Atletico Madrid comfortably disposed of Malaga 3-1 at home after going up 2-0 before half-time. The first goal was yet another from corner, as Tiago sent Koke’s cross home, while Antoine Griezmann finished from close range after being set up by Arda Turan. Roque Santa Cruz put Malaga back in with a shout midway through the second half, but yet another red card for Malaga saw Samuel sent off and Diego Godin finished the match off with his second goal of the league campaign.

Results in full:

Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Espanyol; Atletico Madrid 3-1 Malaga; Eibar 0-4 Real Madrid; Barcelona 5-1 Sevilla; Deportivo La Coruña 0-0 Real Sociedad; Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Celta Vigo; Levante 2-1 Valencia; Elche 2-2 Cordoba; Villarreal 2-1 Getafe; Granada 0-0 Almeria.

About Mark Houston 86 Articles
Mark is an editor of The Blog FC and has also contributed to other sport and music sites. He predominantly writes about La Liga but also follows Europe's other top leagues and the local A-League. There's a special place in his heart for bearded deep-lying playmakers and he's a proud member of the Goalkeepers Union.