Messi hat-trick breaks Gerd Muller record: Barcelona 4-1 Malaga
Lionel Messi’s ninth hat-trick of the campaign saw the Argentine break Gerd Muller’s 39-year old record for goals in a European season as Barcelona thrashed Malaga at the Nou Camp.
Carles Puyol opened the scoring, and Salomón Rondón equalised, before Messi took over with two penalties and a solo effort to take his tally to 68 goals in all competitions.
The scoreline was unfair on a battling Málaga, and the defeat hurts their chances of claiming Champions League qualification for next season.
Outgoing Barca coach Josep Guardiola, warmly received in his first Nou Camp appearance since announcing his departure, rotated again ahead of the Copa del Rey final, bringing back Dani Alves, Cesc Fábregas and Andrés Iniesta. Visiting boss Mauricio Pellegrini, mindful of his side’s two tough remaining fixtures, made four changes and gave young midfielder Francisco Portillo a rare start.
Málaga almost struck first when Fábregas up-ended Santi Cazorla and Duda’s curling free-kick hit the post. The ex-Arsenal midfielder next appeared at the other end, with a shot deflected just wide after good work from Messi and Pedro Rodríguez.
The subsequent corner found its way to Messi, who immediately fed Iniesta and the cross was bundled home from close range by Puyol for the opener.
Although visiting keeper Carlos Kameni had to push away an Adriano Correia long ranger, some late season slackness fell into Barca’s play and Adriano Correia had to cover after first Messi and then Puyol lost possession in midfield.
So it was no shock when Málaga equalised. A patient build up gave Jesús Gamez space to cross and Salomón Rondón climbed above Puyol to flash a header past Pinto.
Barca switched back on again and retook the lead. Gamez admitted a trip on the quick-footed Iniesta, but the defender claimed the contact was outside the area. Referee Turienzo Alvarez disagreed and Messi calmly tucked away the penalty.
Málaga remained well in it and Fábregas was needed back in defence either side of half-time – first blocking Duda’s goal-bound effort after Pinto dropped a cross and then hooking clear from under his crossbar.
Barca could breathe easier when Messi had his second penalty – fired high to the net after Turienzo Alvarez saw Duda bundle over the Argentine close to goal.
Pellegrini introduced veteran substitute Ruud van Nistelrooy, but the striker volleyed over from close range. That was the visitors’ last hope and Messi made it safe by racing onto Iniesta’s slide-rule pass, hurdling Kameni and netting for his hat-trick.
The Argentine had seen off Gerd Muller and Pele to set his goalscoring record, but this year’s Madrid were too strong.