Messi’s hat-trick this evening has made him the highest goalscorer in FC Barcelona history, while goals from Xavi and Tello also helped to put Barça within five points of the leader
That's eight out of eight for FC Barcelona, who defeated Granada tonight in a game that will be remembered above all else for the three goals that mean Leo Messi has overtaken César to become the highest goalscorer in club history. After Xavi had made it 1-0 and Leo had added a second, nobody imagined that the second half of a rainy night at the Camp Nou was going to be so action-packed, in which Granada, like Betis earlier this season, managed to cancel out a two-goal deficit.
It was then that Messi, cool as ever with another stunning finish, wrote the latest chapter of his amazing story. His goal not only knocked the wind out of a momentarily resuscitated Granada, but also marked his 233rd for the club, more than even the legendary César. Tello then added another, before the Argentinian completed his umpteenth hat-trick to once again show why he is, quite simply, the great footballer in the world. Not even the third Granada goal, their second penalty of the night and which also saw Alves sent off, was enough to dampen the spirits on such a historic evening.
The win is FC Barcelona's eighth in a row and cuts the difference between themselves and leaders Real Madrid to five points, although the latter have a game in hand, away to Villarreal on Wednesday night.
Xavi early doors
FC Barcelona only needed four minutes and one chance to go ahead. A nice piece of combination play was completed with a Cuenca cross from the left, off which Messi supplied the ball to Xavi, who came in from behind to score. Granada had barely touched the ball and the Catalans were already in front.
Messi equals César
Although five changes had been made to the team that faced Sevilla, with a completely unfamiliar midfield without any of Busquets, Cesc or Iniesta, and with Keita and Thiago providing support for Xavi, FC Barcelona found little difficulty finding further chances to test Julio Cèsar. And they barely had to shift out of third gear to do it, with Alexis and Cuenca pulling the play out wide and creating plenty of space for Messi to do his work.
Cuenca was also involved in the second goal, supplying a the cross for Messi to score with his first touch, taking a slight deflection off the Granada defence on the way. The crowd immediately responded by chanting the Argentinian's name. And rightly so. He had just equalised César's goalscoring record for the club. History was in the making.
Granada pull back level
Barça conserved their energy for the rest of the half, and started the second in similarly relaxed fashion. Meanwhile, Granada were creating next to nothing in the way of threats. But following a free kick on the edge of the area after 55 minutes they managed to pull back to 2-1. It had been their first shot on target all game. If that goal had seemed hard on Barça, who had been providing almost all the football, the second, to make it 2-2, was even more so. Alves brought down Benítez, and the referee adjudged the incident to have happened inside the area and pointed to the spot, from which Siqueira made no mistake.
With rain now lashing down over the Camp Nou, the greatest player in the world stepped up to make his mark once again. A pinpoint assist from Alves was met by Messi, who beat Juli Cèsar with a sublime chip. Having already equalled César's record, he had now gone one better to become the highest scoring Barça player in history. And what a goal to mark the occasion. Simply the best.
Now 3-2 down, Granada didn't seem to have any strength left to conjure up another response, and instead Tello added another to Barcelona's tally, while there was still time for Messi to complete a hat-trick on what was already a historic night for him. It looked like it was all going to end 5-2, but then the Andalusians were awarded another penalty, this time for an Alves handball in the area, for which the Brazilian was red carded. The spot-kick was converted, and at least Granada can go away saying that they scored three goals at the Camp Nou, something nobody else has achieved this season.
But little did it matter in the end. The game was already won, and the night belonged to just one man – the incredible Leo Messi. He's already the highest goalscorer in FC Barcelona history, and still has many years of football ahead of him. He is both the present and future of one of the most amazing football teams ever to grace this sport.