Brilliant Messi continues to shine
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Lionel Messi added to his scoring streak with a first-half goal in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league yesterday.
Messi scored his eighth goal in six matches with a firm, low shot from outside the area in the 30th minute at Camp Nou Stadium, helping Barcelona to take an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid, ahead of their game at Villarreal.
Messi was also involved in the runup to Barcelona's first goal, a shot by Paco Alcacer from near the penalty spot after a low cross by Jordi Alba.
Messi set the pace from the start and Barcelona were always in control at Camp Nou, comfortably earning their fourth straight win in all competitions.
The Argentina playmaker had scored twice in Barcelona's 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, helping the Catalan club reach the quarter-finals of the European competition.
SCORING TALLY ENHANCED
Messi took his Spanish league-leading scoring tally to 25 goals, four more than teammate Luis Su*rez and seven ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi has scored at least a goal in his last six matches. He did not play in Barcelona's 2-0 win at Malaga in the previous league round because of the birth of his third son.
Barcelona, still unbeaten in La Liga, pressured throughout the game and had plenty of chances to score more goals. Philippe Coutinho struck the crossbar shortly after Barcelona's first goal and again after the second, and Paulinho hit the post just before half-time. Messi nearly scored his second from inside the area in the 88th.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde left Andres Iniesta out of the starting line-up, with the midfielder coming on in the second half. Alcacer played from the start in place of suspended forward Su*rez, while Paulinho was in for the injured Sergio Busquets in midfield.
Ousmane Dembele played up front, making his third consecutive start in an injury-hit season.
Athletic dropped to 13th in the 20-team standings.