Sports Desk: Lionel Messi fittingly sealed Barcelona’s 26th La Liga title on Saturday by coming off the bench to score the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante in front of a jubilant Camp Nou crowd, who celebrated a remarkable eighth league crown in 11 years.
Barcelona’s captain decided the game and the title in the 62nd minute as he received a header from Arturo Vidal, effortlessly freeing himself from two defenders with his right foot before using his left to plant the ball into the far bottom corner.
Messi had started on the bench along with Sergio Busquets as Ernesto Valverde had one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Liverpool. But the coach inevitably turned to his talisman with the game goalless at half-time, despite the best efforts of Philippe Coutinho, who had numerous attempts on goal and struck the crossbar before being withdrawn for Messi.
The Argentinian needed just over a quarter of an hour to have the desired effect, scoring his 34th league goal in 32 appearances this season. With 13 assists to his name as well he has had a hand in more than half his side’s 86 goals.
Messi, who became the first player to win 10 La Liga titles with Barcelona and only the third player from any club to do so, hoisted the trophy in the air before joining his teammates and their children on a lap of honour. Barcelona lead the standings on 83 points after 35 games, nine clear of second-placed Atlético Madrid with three matches left – an unassailable advantage due to their superior head-to-head record.
Valverde’s side have now taken the first step in their bid to win a third treble in a decade. After their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, when they will be bidding to reach the final of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 2015, they play Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on 25 May.
risingbd/Dhaka/Apr 28, 2019/Nasim