Lionel Messi scored twice after tying Xavi Hernandez’s record for most appearances for Barcelona on Monday, placing them within four points of the Spanish league’s lead after beating last-placed Huesca 4-1.
For his 767th match, Messi was honored by Barcelona with a great image behind one of the goals, showing him embracing Xavi as players looked ahead and pointed upwards. The banner included the words “767 matches” and “touch the sky”.
“It’s amazing,” said Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman. “His impact on this team is huge. It is amazing what he has done for this club so far. “
Antoine Griezmann and Oscar Mingesa also scored at the Camp Nou stadium when the Catalan club won its fourth match of the league to increase the pressure on the leader Atletico Madrid.
Atletico, looking for their first title since 2014, had a comfortable lead until recently, winning only two of their last six games. It was held 0-0 at Getafe on Saturday.
Diego Simeone’s team will visit Barcelona in May.
“We have always said we will not give up,” said Barcelona midfielder Pedri Gonzalez. “We have a good team that can continue to fight for this title and we have momentum on our side.”
Barcelona, which came out of the elimination of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in the 16th, had control from the beginning on Monday.
Messi scored in each half for his 130th double in the league. He opened the scoring in the top corner after an exquisite one-touch to clear a defender just outside the zone in the 13th minute, then closed the scoring with another shot outside the zone in the 90th.
The Argentine playmaker has 21 goals in the league, three more than Luis Suarez from Atletico at the top of the table.
Barcelona kept up the pressure and almost increased the lead when Jordi Alba hit the crossbar in the 33rd minute, and a few minutes later Griezmann added his goal with a well-curled curl in the top corner past Huesca goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.
Huesca pulled one after a penalty kick, won after a break in the break for the first half, converted by striker Rafa Mir
Then Mingesa scored his first goal for Barcelona with a header in Messi’s cross in the 53rd.
Huesca, who have won just one of their last six games, are four points away from safety.
(With AP inputs.)