Lionel Messi moved to within one goal of Gerd Müller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year as Messi led FC Barcelona to a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
The first chance for Tito Vilanova’s men came in the 13th minute as Andres Iniesta dribbled his way through two defenders at the top left side of the box, but Iniesta’s shot was saved by Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
Messi found Iniesta in the 22nd minute, but good defending by Bilbao kept the ball out. A corner kick came of it, which was nearly put in by Cesc Fabregas as Iraizoz made the save; however, the rebound landed at the feet of Gerard Pique for the opening goal of the night.
Just two minutes later, Messi got his goal as Xavi found him open in the middle of the pitch. Messi lobbed it over Iraizoz and it was deflected in by Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta. What looked like an own goal at first glance was in fact awarded to Messi by the referee.
Fabregas had a great chance to add in the third goal a few minutes later as Messi found a wide-open Cesc, whose shot was nicely blocked by Iraizoz. Jordi Alba made a great run in the 43rd minute as “the flying squirrel” went inside the box and passed the ball to Iniesta, whose shot went wide right.
Just before the halftime whistle, Barça made it 3-0 as Messi found Fabregas in the half-moon at the top of the box. Fabregas then passed it to a streaking Adriano on the right side, and the Brazilian slammed in his fifth goal of the La Liga season.
In the second half, Messi nearly got his second goal in the 54th minute as his shot was on target, but stopped by Iraizoz. Messi looked like he was fouled inside the box less than a minute later, but no foul was called.
In the 57th minute, Barcelona made it 4-0 as Iniesta found Fabregas, who was wide open and slotted in the goal. Bilbao looked horrible as they continued to leave Barça players wide open all game long.
Bilbao had their first real chance at goal in the 61st minute as Fernando Llorente’s shot skied high.
In the 66th minute, Adriano allowed Ibai Gomez to stay onside and beat Victor Valdes for Bilbao's lone goal of the night.
Messi went to within one goal from equalizing Müller’s record as he grabbed his brace on the night in the 70th minute. Messi picked up the loose ball inside the box and slammed it to the top right of the net for his brace.
In the final minute of the game, Pique came up forward and tried to feed Messi for the hat trick, but Leo’s header went over the crossbar.
Final: FC Barcelona 5 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
This 2012-13 FC Barcelona squad have now set the record for the best starting Liga history, beating the record held by the 1961-62 Real Madrid team.
Forty out of 42 points. Thirteen wins. One draw.
What a fantastic job Tito Vilanova has done. Many didn’t think he could have the same success Pep Guardiola had, but Vilanova has brought a new, more relaxed culture to this squad.
We are all witnessing the greatest team in Liga history!
Let’s look at the three observations "From The Mind of Xoel" from this game, including a look at Messi’s historic numbers.