Barcelona 3-1 Leganes: Lionel Messi stars for record equalling Cules
Lionel Messi netted three times on Saturday evening as Barcelona beat Leganes 3-1 to equal Real Sociedad’s record of 38 La Liga games without defeat. La Real set the record between April 1979 and May 1980. Barca's run began 15th April 2017, ironically against La Real.
Barcelona began the game well. They were in control for much of the first half, although it did take them 27 minutes to open the scoring. Awarded a free kick about 25 yards out from goal, Messi stepped up to strike a shot over the wall and into the bottom corner beyond the Leganes goalkeeper who looked to have shown too much of his left-hand side to the little Argentine. You don't want to show him too much of anything if we're honest.
Five minutes later, Messi struck again. This time Phillippe Coutinho did well to thread a pass through. Collecting it on the edge of the box, Leo took two touches to move the ball away from his defender, then slotted into the bottom corner to put Barcelona 2-0 ahead. That was the score at the half.
After the break, Barcelona went on the back foot, as they often have when in the lead under Ernesto Valverde. It proved costly on this occasion. Leganes found a way back in the game when Nabil El Zhar's shot took a deflection off makeshift left back, Sergi Roberto, stymying Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
It may not have been a good idea to score. With Leganes back in the game, Barcelona went back on the front foot. The third goal arrived when Ousmane Dembele's cross found it's way to Messi, who managed to flick a shot beyond the onrushing goalkeeper.
What next for Barcelona?
Now that the record is equalled, the next step is to break it. The first opportunity comes next Saturday afternoon when Valencia arrive at Camp Nou. Los Che won't be a pushover. They look likely to secure a top-four place this season. The Bats were Barcelona's closest rivals for a long time this season, then had a bad run at the turn of the year. Marcelino's squad have recovered their momentum, winning seven of their last eight games. They play Espanyol today.
If Barcelona can set a new mark, the next target will be to become La Liga's first Invincibles. With seven games remaining, it's a plausible scenario. Barca have some huge tests ahead. They must juggle the Copa del Rey final and almost certainly the Champions League semifinal as they pursue domestic history.
How does the run-in look? Away to Celta de Vigo is a fixture that has caused them trouble in the past. They also have Real Madrid and Villarreal to play at Camp Nou. Even a trip to Riazor to take on struggling Deportivo La Coruna could be a potential banana skin. Depor will be desperate for points to stay up. That match is sandwiched between the Champions League semifinal legs. Valverde will surely rotate to be fresh for either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
There's still the best part of two months remaining. The future isn't written. This weekend's victory and the accompanying milestone are in the book, however, and make for excellent reading.