Lionel Messi scored his 49th and 50th goals of the season to lead Barcelona to a 2-0 win at Racing Santander in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Four days after scoring a Champions League-record five goals in Barcelona’s 7-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen, Messi reached the 50-goal mark for the second straight season and closed to within five of matching Cesar Rodriguez’s all-time club record of 235.
Barcelona’ fourth straight victory kept it 10 points behind runaway leader Real Madrid, but with 12 rounds to play the defending champions’ chances of catching their fierce rival are dwindling.
Messi broke through Racing’s 10-man defense in the 29th minute, and the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year added a penalty in the 56th as Barcelona enjoyed a rare easy win away from Camp Nou.
Racing coach Alvaro Cervera, who was hired on Friday, could do little but watch as Barcelona easily kept the relegation-threatened side winless for an eighth straight week.
Cervera made Racing’s strategy clear from the start. While some teams have pressed Barcelona, the former Racing and Spain player opted for his side to sit back and try to resist its opponent’s precision passing game.
But the hosts’ defensive stance led to zero shots on goal and failed to stop Messi from taking his league goal tally to 30 – two behind Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the list.
Barcelona hardly missed the injured David Villa and Alexis Sanchez, with the trio of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta proving to be too much for Racing.
Barcelona dominated possession from the start but needed to get the hang of the uneven turf at El Sardinero stadium before Andres Iniesta hit the crossbar with a delicate chip shot in the 23rd.
The European champions eventually besieged Racing in its own area for Messi to score. He combined with Fabregas, laying off to the midfielder and pushing forward to dive and knock his cross into the net for the sixth goal set up by Fabregas in the league this season.
Racing sent on striker Christian Stuani at halftime but to no effect.
Messi made it 2-0 in the 56th from the penalty spot, coolly stroking the ball into the bottom right corner after Fabregas had been fouled in the area by Racing defender Domingo Cisma.
With the double, Messi has scored 16 goals in his past six matches for Barcelona and Argentina. He had 53 goals in 55 matches for his club last season. Messi already has 50 in 43 matches so far this campaign.