Football

Magical Messi hits milestone of 700th game for Barca

He marks 700th Barca game with 613th goal and 237th assist against Dortmund

Lionel Messi marked his 700th game for Barcelona by scoring his 613th goal yesterday morning (Singapore time), as the Catalans beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 to go through as group winners to the Champions League last 16.

Messi celebrated his anniversary in style by putting Barca two up before half-time, between laying on a pair of assists for Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in a comfortable victory at the Nou Camp.

"He was incredible," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. "It's all about what he does and when he does it. It was a performance to put us through."

England's Jadon Sancho fired into the top corner for a late Dortmund consolation, but the visitors were largely disappointing and now face a fight with Inter Milan to make it out of Group F.

Barcelona have 11 points. Dortmund have seven, but are behind Inter Milan on goal difference after the Italian team won 3-1 at Slavia Prague. Slavia have two points.

Dortmund will hope to beat Slavia at home in a fortnight's time. They will also be relying on Barcelona to play a strong enough team to avoid defeat at the San Siro, eight days before the season's first Clasico at home to Real Madrid.

"We got the most difficult group in the competition in my opinion," said Valverde. "We are through with a game to spare, first in the group, and for the players that means a lot."

While Real have hit their stride in recent weeks, Barca have stumbled, even if the results have been good enough to remain top of La Liga on goal difference.

For that, they owe a great deal to Messi, who has 10 goals in his last nine games, a timely surge into form ahead of the announcement of the Ballon d'Or in Paris on Monday, for which his greatest threat is Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

As well as his 613 goals, Messi has provided 237 assists in his 700 club matches, taking his collective tally of goals and assists in that time to an astonishing 850. He trails only Xavi Hernandez, who made 767 appearances for the Spanish club.

Barca extended their competition record to 35 consecutive home matches without defeat going back to 2013.

"Seven hundred matches for Barcelona is not normal and neither is what (Messi) did on the pitch," said Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Messi's 33rd-minute goal let him set another milestone by becoming the first player to score against 34 different opponents in the Champions League.

He also went close to another goal when he curled a free-kick off the crossbar. He has 114 career goals in the tournament.

Dortmund coach Lucien Favre also praised Messi,saying: "He moves so well between the lines and when he receives the ball he is almost unstoppable.

"Sometimes all you can do is try to foul him because he is so explosive. He is also deadly whenever he makes a final ball." - REUTERS, AFP

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