Lionel Messi scored twice to celebrate matching Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona appearance record in Monday’s 4-1 win over bottom club Huesca at Camp Nou.

Messi opened and closed the scoring on his 767th appearance for Barca as Ronald Koeman’s side cut the gap on league leaders Atletico Madrid to just four points. Stunning strikes from Messi and Antoine Griezmann helped Barca into a 2-0 lead inside 35 minutes but a penalty converted by Rafa Mir helped Huesca back into the game on the stroke of half-time. A first-ever Barca goal for Oscar Mingueza in the 53rd minute restored the home side’s two-goal advantage and Messi completed the scoring late on with another effort from distance.

Positives

Barca are running into form at the right time and are now unbeaten in their past 17 league games, a run dating back to December. They’ve taken a huge chunk out of Atletico’s lead at the top of the table and are now very much back in the title race with 11 games to be played.

The Blaugrana weren’t at their best against Huesca but were clinical. Messi’s first goal was brilliant — as was Griezmann’s curler from 25 yards — and his second took his goal tally for the club to 661 on the night he matched Xavi’s appearance record.

Negatives

Huesca carved through Barca quite often. While the penalty was hugely debatable — Marc-Andre ter Stegen‘s touch on Mir was slight and the striker had already missed the chance — it came from one of several dangerous counterattacks. Mir was guilty of missing a sitter in the second half, too, that would have made things interesting at 3-2.

Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
ESPN+ viewer’s guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Koeman seemed unwilling to mix up his tactics at the start of the season but his flexibility in recent months has helped Barca improve.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Made a good early save from Pablo Maffeo but gave the penalty away and seemed more stuck to his line than usual.

DF Oscar Mingueza, 7 — The young defender looks increasingly at home in this Barca side. He had never even scored for the B team before heading in Messi’s second-half cross here.

DF Frenkie de Jong, 6 — Capable of playing in a back three, and pushed on here much more than he did against Paris Saint-Germain, even hitting the bar, but is much better as a midfielder.

DF Clement Lenglet, 6 — Looked confident on the ball early on but struggled to deal with Huesca’s counters as he was left in one-on-one situations time and again.

MF Sergino Dest, 6 — Clearly loves playing as a right wing-back. Gets forward whenever he can, including forcing Alvaro Fernandez into an early save.

MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Benefits more than most by having three at the back, although a bit of complacency crept into his game once Barca went two goals up.

MF Pedri, 7 — Instinctively knows where to position himself and where to pass the ball. It’s no wonder he received a first Spain call-up on Monday.

MF Jordi Alba, 7 — Another good performance from the left-back on the day he returned to the Spain squad. Hit the bar in the first half and set up De Jong to hit the woodwork, too.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 — The French forward scored a stunning goal from 25 yards to take his tally for the season to 13 in all competitions.

FW Lionel Messi, 9 — Scored two brilliant goals and made another on another record-breaking night. Has now scored 20-plus league goals in each of the past 13 seasons.

FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 — Had a couple of good moments, including one great cross that flashed across the face of goal, but switched off occasionally and didn’t find much space in the final third.

Substitutions

DF Ronald Araujo, 6 — The defender made his return from an ankle injury, replacing De Jong for the final 30 minutes.

MF Ilaix Moriba, 6 — More vital minutes for the midfielder who’s clearly to Koeman’s liking.

FW Francisco Trincao, 6 — Made a couple of dangerous runs after replacing Dest on the right.

MF Riqui Puig, N/R — Given the final five minutes.

FW Martin Braithwaite, N/R — Came on for Dembele with the clock ticking down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *