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La Liga final day: Lionel Messi breaks two records, Wu Lei impresses in swansong


Espanyol's Chinese star Wu Lei in action during their La Liga clash with Celta at RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

It might be scant consolation in a error-strewn season but at least Barcelona and Lionel Messi have something to cheer about on the final day of the coronavirus-delayed La Liga campaign. 

The dethroned champions responded to the humiliation of their midweek loss to Osasuna by trouncing Alaves 5-0, with a lively Messi notching two goals and an assist. "We were self-critical and took a hard look at ourselves from the inside, which is what we needed to do," said the the Argentinian star post game. 

Messi's latest sparkling display took his tally to 25 league goals, which is four clear of Real Madrid veteran Karim Benzema and wins the Pichichi top scorer award for a record seventh time. It's also the fourth consecutive season that the Barca captain finished as Spain's most prolific striker.

Yet it's a testament to Messi's waning power as this is the first time in 12 years that La Liga's best marksman managed fewer than 30 goals. 

Lionel Messi wins his seventh La Liga golden boot after scoring twice in Barcelona's win over Alaves at Estadio Mendizorroz, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

For all the dwindling goal scoring ability, Messi's exceptional talent in putting the ball on a plate for his teamates is still beyond doubt.  

The 33-year-old's perfectly weighted pass was fired home by 17-year-old youngster Ansu Fati to open the scoring against Alaves. It was Messi's 21st assist this season, breaking the record held by Barca legend Xavi, who registered 20 assists during the 2008-09 campaign. 

However, Messi was in no mood to celebrate. "Individual prizes and objectives are secondary. It's an important achievement to win it seven times but I would have liked it to have been accompanied by the La Liga title," he said. 

"Things can go one way or another but I don't think we should be beaten for desire. We have to go out with the same desire as our opponent, or even more, and the performances will stem from that," he added.

Lionel Messi has his lowest scoring season in La Liga since 2008-09 despite winning the Pichichi once again. /VCG

Next up for Messi and Co. are the return leg of Barcelona's last 16 Champions League tie against Napoli next month, and it will be their last chance to avoid a first trophy-less season since 2007-08. 

Messi admitted the pressure is mounting, but he is relishing the challenge ahead.  "We're all conscious of the fact we have to be much more consistent. As the coach said the other day, there were games when we were very good in spells, but we have to maintain that over 90 minutes," he observed 

"I think we need a little calm now, a break to clear our heads and come back with more desire than ever. We have said everything that needed to be said. We've been self-critical." 

"Now it's time to work hard and give our all. There's nothing left to talk about, we just have to show that things can change and today was an important step forward in that," he concluded. 

Leganes's Unai Bustinza (R) in frustration during their La Liga clash with Real Madrid at Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid, who clinched the title with a game to spare last week, stumbled for the first time since the season's restart. The newly-crowned La Liga champions ended their own 10-game winning streak after a 2-2 draw with Leganes and also ended their opponents' four-year stint in the Spanish topflight. 

Javier Aguirre's team, who needed to beat Real to have any hopes of survival, failed to create a miracle and finished 18th on 36 points. They joined Mallorca and Espanyol in being relegated, while Celta, who ended the season on 37, stayed up after being held to a goalless draw by Espanyol. 

The stalemate in Catalonia could be Wu Lei's farewell La Liga game for Espanyol. The Chinese striker, who has been linked with several European clubs, again won a spot in the starting lineup and he proved to be a handful for opposition defenders that found it tough to cope with his movement and vision. 

Espanyol's Wu Lei (R) tussles with Celta's Jeison Murillo during their La Liga clash with Celta at RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

But as a microcosm of his whole season, Wu struggled to make breakthrough despite managing to create several half-chances. The 28-year-old played a deserved role in setting the stage for Adri Embarba to score a cracker, but the stunning goal was eventually ruled out after the referee was judged by VAR to be interfering with play.  

Wu, who netted eight goals in 48 appearance this term, was visibly tired towards the latter stages of the fiesty encounter and was substituted with 20 minutes to go. After an understandable reduction in notable goalmouth action in the last stretch, the referee finally blew full-time whistle to signal the end of the longest season in La Liga history.


Espanyol's Chinese star Wu Lei in action during their La Liga clash with Celta at RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

It might be scant consolation in a error-strewn season but at least Barcelona and Lionel Messi have something to cheer about on the final day of the coronavirus-delayed La Liga campaign. 

The dethroned champions responded to the humiliation of their midweek loss to Osasuna by trouncing Alaves 5-0, with a lively Messi notching two goals and an assist. "We were self-critical and took a hard look at ourselves from the inside, which is what we needed to do," said the the Argentinian star post game. 

Messi's latest sparkling display took his tally to 25 league goals, which is four clear of Real Madrid veteran Karim Benzema and wins the Pichichi top scorer award for a record seventh time. It's also the fourth consecutive season that the Barca captain finished as Spain's most prolific striker.

Yet it's a testament to Messi's waning power as this is the first time in 12 years that La Liga's best marksman managed fewer than 30 goals. 

Lionel Messi wins his seventh La Liga golden boot after scoring twice in Barcelona's win over Alaves at Estadio Mendizorroz, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

For all the dwindling goal scoring ability, Messi's exceptional talent in putting the ball on a plate for his teamates is still beyond doubt.  

The 33-year-old's perfectly weighted pass was fired home by 17-year-old youngster Ansu Fati to open the scoring against Alaves. It was Messi's 21st assist this season, breaking the record held by Barca legend Xavi, who registered 20 assists during the 2008-09 campaign. 

However, Messi was in no mood to celebrate. "Individual prizes and objectives are secondary. It's an important achievement to win it seven times but I would have liked it to have been accompanied by the La Liga title," he said. 

"Things can go one way or another but I don't think we should be beaten for desire. We have to go out with the same desire as our opponent, or even more, and the performances will stem from that," he added.

Lionel Messi has his lowest scoring season in La Liga since 2008-09 despite winning the Pichichi once again. /VCG

Next up for Messi and Co. are the return leg of Barcelona's last 16 Champions League tie against Napoli next month, and it will be their last chance to avoid a first trophy-less season since 2007-08. 

Messi admitted the pressure is mounting, but he is relishing the challenge ahead.  "We're all conscious of the fact we have to be much more consistent. As the coach said the other day, there were games when we were very good in spells, but we have to maintain that over 90 minutes," he observed 

"I think we need a little calm now, a break to clear our heads and come back with more desire than ever. We have said everything that needed to be said. We've been self-critical." 

"Now it's time to work hard and give our all. There's nothing left to talk about, we just have to show that things can change and today was an important step forward in that," he concluded. 

Leganes's Unai Bustinza (R) in frustration during their La Liga clash with Real Madrid at Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid, who clinched the title with a game to spare last week, stumbled for the first time since the season's restart. The newly-crowned La Liga champions ended their own 10-game winning streak after a 2-2 draw with Leganes and also ended their opponents' four-year stint in the Spanish topflight. 

Javier Aguirre's team, who needed to beat Real to have any hopes of survival, failed to create a miracle and finished 18th on 36 points. They joined Mallorca and Espanyol in being relegated, while Celta, who ended the season on 37, stayed up after being held to a goalless draw by Espanyol. 

The stalemate in Catalonia could be Wu Lei's farewell La Liga game for Espanyol. The Chinese striker, who has been linked with several European clubs, again won a spot in the starting lineup and he proved to be a handful for opposition defenders that found it tough to cope with his movement and vision. 

Espanyol's Wu Lei (R) tussles with Celta's Jeison Murillo during their La Liga clash with Celta at RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, July 19, 2020. /VCG

But as a microcosm of his whole season, Wu struggled to make breakthrough despite managing to create several half-chances. The 28-year-old played a deserved role in setting the stage for Adri Embarba to score a cracker, but the stunning goal was eventually ruled out after the referee was judged by VAR to be interfering with play.  

Wu, who netted eight goals in 48 appearance this term, was visibly tired towards the latter stages of the fiesty encounter and was substituted with 20 minutes to go. After an understandable reduction in notable goalmouth action in the last stretch, the referee finally blew full-time whistle to signal the end of the longest season in La Liga history.