La Liga - Messi inspires Barca to title win

Eurosport - Sun, 16 May 19:46:00 2010

Lionel Messi scored two goals and made one as Barcelona thumped Real Valladolid 4-0 at the Camp Nou to retain the Spanish title in fitting style.

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The result, coupled with Real Madrid's 1-1 draw at Malaga, meant Pep Guardiola's side ended the season with a record haul of 99 points, three clear at the top of the Liga table.

Young striker Pedro also got his name on the scoresheet after a calamitous own-goal by Luis Prieto had broken the deadlock following a nervy start by the hosts.

Defeat for Valladolid saw them relegated, along with Tenerife who lost 1-0 at Valencia, and Xerez who drew 1-1 at Osasuna.

With the knowledge that victory on the night would hand Barca their 20th league title came a certain amount of pressure, a situation no doubt compounded by the high expectancy of over 90,000 fans filling the stadium.

And early on it showed, not least in goalkeeper Victor Valdes's nervy performance. Indeed, Barca were lucky not to fall to the same fate as Real Madrid in Malaga and concede against the odds inside the opening 10 minutes.

Valdes, who had been named in Spain's provisional World Cup squad earlier in the week, opted to control Gerard Pique's fourth minute back pass instead of clearing his lines at the first opportunity. His eventual, hurried clearance fell straight to Manucho who had the seemingly simple task of slotting into an empty net, but the former Manchester United striker's effort was weak and Carles Puyol was able to get back and make a crucial block.

Barca soon settled though, and before too long their slick passing game was back in evidence. Seydou Keita and Yaya Toure both went close with long-range efforts before Messi really began to come into his own.

Initially frustrated, Messi proved his class on 18 minutes with a mesmerising run that ended with Jacobo being called into action for the first time.

The Valladolid keeper was less assured a minute later when he found Bojan's effort too hot to handle but there was nothing he could do when Toure's shot was deflected into Messi's path on 22 minutes. Fortunately for him, the Argentine proved he is human after all by sidefooting wide.

Messi's blushes were spared on 27 minutes as Valladolid's resistance was broken - seemingly just in time as the restless home crowd had begun to let their frustrations known.

There was a huge element of fortune about it, Prieto bungling Pedro's cross into his own net, but that could not take away any of its importance.

A second followed four minutes later, and with it went Valladolid's hopes of causing an unlikely upset. Messi was the architect, dancing past two challenges before playing a one-two with Toure and slipping in Pedro. The youngster finished with aplomb, rolling the ball under the body of the advancing Jacobo.

Messi got his first after the break, equalling Brazilian Ronaldo's record of 33 league goals in a season after Toure had used his power and pace to beat two men, get to the by-line and cut the ball back across the face of goal.

That record was soon surpassed as Messi again, for the 47th time this season, found the back of the net. Toure played the ball through for the Argentinian wizard, but there was still work to be done. Messi duly did it, beating two defenders before cutting the ball back across the face of Jacobo to nestle in the corner.

Four-nil up and most teams would be forgiven for wanting to shut up shop and sit on their lead. But Barcelona are not most teams and Guardiola promptly sacrificed right-back Dani Alves for striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The move nearly paid dividends immediately, but the unmarked Sweden international inexplicably opted to flick a boot at a cross instead of putting his head on it.

The Camp Nou rose as one to with four minutes remaining, partly to acclaim Pedro as he was brought off, but also to welcome their favourite Andres Iniesta into the fray.

With Xavi Hernandez not even on the bench on the night through suspension and the likes of Thierry Henry not getting off it, the substitution merely served to remind anyone who may have forgotten that Barca have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. So much so that it would already take a brave man to bet against a third consecutive title being secured in a year's time.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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