Record man Messi: 301 and counting

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona achieved a deserved 1-2 win against Granada at Los Carmenes in Matchday 24 of La Liga. Lionel Messi (brace) scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 72 percent of possession and attempted 18 shots, six of them on target and one to the post.

- Messi rallies Barcelona to win

If you didn't watch the game, you may think this was yet another easy win for Barcelona -- you would be wrong. In fact, the Blaugrana had to fight tremendously for these three points against an incredibly disciplined, aggressive home team who were ultimately beaten by the better side but can hold their heads high nonetheless.

Barcelona started the game in their usual style, dominating possession and looking for an eventual opening in the rival defence. Surprisingly, though, and following yet another clamorous Alexis Sanchez miss, Granada managed to score first following a quick counterattack.

Sure, Odion Ighalo was probably offside, but that cannot divert any attention from the key problem here: Once again, Barcelona received an early goal against a team who had created nothing until that point.

With the whole world's media eagerly awaiting Messi's 300th goal for Barcelona, he actually became more of a playmaker due to the absences of Xavi (injured) and Andres Iniesta (initially rested) during the first half.

After the halftime break, though, he cleverly stepped up and took the goalscoring responsibility once again. His milestone goal was certainly not his prettiest, but it has already reserved its place in the Barcelona record books. Not just happy with the first goal, La Pulga then went one step further with a classy, accurate free kick which ultimately gave Barcelona their 21st win in 24 La Liga matches this season.

Messi has now scored 301 times in just 365 appearances, a mind-blowing 0.82 goals per match. The brace against Granada takes his current goal-scoring streak to a record 14 consecutive league matches, making his tally 37 in the domestic competition. The fact that only the entire teams of Atletico and Real Madrid have scored more than La Pulga alone is simply unreal.

From a more general team perspective, the inevitable truth is that the Blaugrana are reaching the crucial stage of the season and can simply not afford to drop the level of concentration that has taken them to a privileged position at this stage. While the team continues to grab win after win, the fact that the Blaugrana have conceded at least one goal in their previous La Liga and Copa del Rey fixtures must be considered as a constant reminder that these positive results haven't come easily.

With eight matches to be played in the next 28 days, which include two clashes against Real Madrid in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, plus AC Milan in the Champions League, there is just no time to look back or celebrate any records.

The way in which Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura rotate the squad in the near future must ensure all key players remain fresh enough to face the remaining challenges in all competitions, especially now that the usual high-intensity training period after the Christmas break has come to an end.

Looking forward to facing the Rossoneri at the mighty San Siro on Wednesday!

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Victor Valdes (7) -- Solid. Produced a quality save in the dying moments of the match which ensured the Blaugrana came out victorious.

Dani Alves (7) -- Continued his recent great form with a remarkable attacking performance from the right flank.

Adriano (5) -- Definitely not his best display of the season, but contributed fairly well with his generous effort. Substituted before halftime with a thigh muscle problem.

Gerard Pique (7) -- Looked comfortable for most of the match, rarely beaten. Ensured Barcelona's attacking game started calmly from the back line.

Javier Mascherano (7) -- Confident. Always eager to force the Granada forwards into mistakes thanks to his relentless pressing.

Sergio Busquets (6) -- As usual, the Catalan youngster was the glue that kept the Blaugrana midfield together with well-timed defensive tackles and quick attacking combinations.

Cesc Fabregas (8) -- The most creative midfield player today. His ability to rotate between the lines, interchange positions with Messi and widen the pitch from deep with clever diagonal runs kept the Catalans alive.

Thiago Alcantara (6) -- An efficient display overall, although his passing was slightly inaccurate at times. The La Masia graduate started his second consecutive match for the first time this season, a clear sign of the growing status he is achieving within the squad.

Lionel Messi (9) -- Another masterclass appearance to add to his overflowing, golden portfolio. Rescued Barcelona when the team needed it the most. Whichever way you try to analyse it, what the tiny genius from Rosario continues to achieve on a weekly basis is brutal, awesome, tremendous and legendary. Words simply escape me, so let's just drop a number here: 301.

Alexis Sanchez (4) -- Another disappointing performance from a very unsettled player. You can't deny his effort, but the goals are just not coming easily enough. The fact that Cristian Tello had a clearly higher impact in just 29 minutes of football shows that the time to give other forwards a chance may be closer than ever.

Pedro Rodriguez (8) -- Continuously involved in most Blaugrana attacks, creating endless problems for the Granada defenders. Must be annoyed after hitting the post with a wonderfully clean strike from midrange.

Substitutes: Jordi Alba (6), Andres Iniesta (6), Cristian Tello (7)

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