Messi on target again

Updated: December 13, 2012

Three days after setting a new world record for goals scored in a calendar year, he was on the scoring trail once again on Wednesday night, netting twice to give Barcelona a surely unassailable 2-0 advantage after the first leg of their last 16 Copa del Rey tie with Cordoba.

Real Madrid, the 2011 winners, fell two goals behind at La Liga rivals Celta Vigo but Cristiano Ronaldo’s late strike to make it 2-1 put the 2011 winners in a reasonably strong position ahead of next week’s second leg at their Bernabeu stadium.

Messi needed just ten minutes to get his name on the scoresheet, side-footing home his 87th goal of the year after David Villa stayed just onside to run onto Pedro’s throughball and slide a pass across the face of goal.

He was on target again 15 minutes from time, giving himself a great chance of taking his annual tally into the nineties with two games remaining before the Christmas break.

The scoreline was harsh on Cordoba who had made the early running in the fabulous atmosphere of their sold-out Nuevo Arcangel stadium.

The second division side twice came close to taking an early lead, firstly when a ferocious long-range drive by Lopez Garai was tipped over by Jose Pinto, and then when Pedro Sanchez shot inches wide of the right-hand post from 15 yards.

Then came Barca’s opener, which arrived seconds after midfielder Thiago Alcantara had hit the post with a thunderous shot. But spirited Cordoba continued to take the game to their illustrious visitors despite falling behind, and had a goal by striker Vincenzo Rennella marginally but correctly ruled out for offside.

Aside from the goal Barca created little in the opening period, although they probably should have been awarded a penalty when Villa was sent tumbling inside the penalty area.

Early in the second half Pedro’s miserable form in front of goal continued when he ran onto Xavi’s inch-perfect throughball but fired high over the bar, and then shot straight at the goalkeeper after being released by Messi – it’s now nearly four months since the winger scored for Barca, although he has netted seven goals for Spain in the meantime.

The raucous Cordoba fans were able to revel in a rare one-on-one miss by Messi after he was brilliantly played through by Gerard Pique, with home goalkeeper Mikel Saizar standing tall and making a solid block to deny the record-breaking Argentine.

But the home team didn’t get so lucky a few minutes later, when Messi slotted home his second goal of the evening after running onto a precise low cross from substitute Alexis Sanchez.

Messi nearly completed his hat-trick after latching onto Alex Song’s pass, but Saizar again did well. The damage had already been done, though, and Messi has now scored two goals in seven consecutive starting appearances.

Eibar, who held Bilbao to a 0-0 draw in the first leg, will play Malaga in the last 16, with a quarterfinal against Barca or Cordoba the prize for the winners.

On the other side of the draw, Atletico Madrid have one foot in the last eight after forward Diego Costa scored twice in a 3-0 win at home to city rivals Getafe.