Messi rings up 50th goal in 2019 as Barca take top spot

It’s the ninth time this decade that Messi has scored 50 calendar year goals.

LIONEL MESSI WAS on sparkling form as he scored his 50th goal of 2019 while inspiring Barcelona to a 4-1 win over Alaves.

The win sees Barca go into the brief Spanish winter break on top of La Liga. Real Madrid, they drew 0-0 in the midweek Clasico, can draw level top on 39 points (but behind on goal difference) if they win at home to Atletico Bilbao tomorrow.

French star Antoine Griezmann put Barca ahead with a lovely snap-shot from outside the area after a slick exchange with Messi on 14 minutes.

“I needed to score a goal before the holidays,” said Griezmann, “now I can go into them happy with myself.”

With just seven goals since his summer move to the Blaugrana, the French striker added:

We have a great team with some of the best players around and when we don’t click, well, there’s always Messi.”

Messi had already had a better strike ruled out by a harsh VAR decision, while Arturo Vidal had tried a dramatic overhead effort that the Alaves ‘keeper just about stopped with his feet.

Vidal bagged a second just before half-time when put into open space on the right as Barcelona overwhelmed the visitors, but they should have gone into the break more than 2-0 ahead.

Pere Pons pulled one back on 56 minutes for Alaves with neither Gerard Pique nor the returning Samuel Umtiti on hand as his header flew home from close range.

Even with four defenders around him, Messi was unstoppable on 69 minutes as he unleashed a trademark left-foot strike from outside the box.

The goal was Messi’s 50th of 2019 and it is the ninth team he has reached the half-century in the last 10 years.

A sweetly-struck Luis Suarez penalty made it 4-1 on 75 minutes.

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