la liga reaction

Guardiola delighted as Barcelona's run goes on

February 2, 2009

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola felt his side were full value for their win over Racing Santander even though the runaway Primera Liga leaders had to do it the hard way before recording their 18th league victory in 19 matches.

With second-placed Real Madrid winning on Saturday night to trim Barca's lead at the summit to nine points, the Catalan giants were under a little bit of pressure at El Sardinero, especially after falling behind through Nikola Zigic's 56th-minute penalty. However, the arrival soon after that goal of Lionel Messi from the bench totally changed the complexion of the game, with the Argentina superstar equalising six minutes after coming on and then scoring a superb winner 10 minutes from time.

Barca could not relax even after that though with defensive duo Gerard Pique and Rafael Marquez being sent off in the closing stages, but despite all those setbacks, Guardiola believes his men were worthy winners.

"We dominated and attacked throughout the match. It's true that when Messi went on we scored the goals, and that was what we lacked in the first half," Guardiola said.

"We did not test the goalkeeper enough, did not create enough danger, and that makes it difficult to score. That was our only problem.

"We had an excellent game. I think we deserved to win and we have taken another step towards the league, but there is still a long away to go.

"We won at a ground which historically has been very hard for Barca."

Messi's match-winning strike had double significance for Barca, as it was also the club's 5,000th league goal.

The Argentinian admits he did not realise what he had achieved during the game, but was keen to ensure the ball was kept for posterity afterwards.

"I took the ball for the 5,000th goal. It's for the club and for the museum. The ball will go to the museum," Messi said on his club's website.

"We always want to score goals, but we hadn't thought about the 5,000th goal.

"I didn't know it was the 5,000th goal, despite having heard talk about it."