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Messi scores 500th goal to lift Barca past Real

Lionel Messi scores 500th goal

Lionel Messi ignited Barcelona’s La Liga title campaign as his 500th goal for the club pushed them past a 10-man fighting Real Madrid side 3-2 at Santiago Bernabeu.

The win put Barca level with Real Madrid on top of the La Liga table, though the capital side have a game in hand.

“It [La Liga title race] will be tight until the end,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique. “We got the result came here for.”

Casemiro opened the scoring for the hosts in the 28th minute, but Messi was intent on keeping their title hopes alive and cancelled the goal five minutes later.

Ivan Rakitic gave Barca the lead in the 73rd minute, four minutes before Sergio Ramos got a straight red for a careless lunge on Messi.

James Rodriguez was subbed in for Karim Benzema in the 82nd minute and seemed to have sealed a split of points for Madrid three minutes later, but Messi was wearing his finishing boots for the game and completed his brace in injury time, muffing the crowd at Bernabeu.

“The 2-2 goal was a terrible blow,” added Enrique. “But players were able to come back in the last breath, [it was] the happy ending that we all wanted at Barcelona.”

DOUBLE WHAMMY

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane was criticized for starting oft-injured winger Gareth Bale despite health concerns, but the French boss said he does not regret it.

“Gareth said he was fine and eager to play,” said Zidane, who had to replace Bale 40 minutes into the match because the Welshman appeared to have reinjured his calf. “I do not regret it.

“I am disappointed for him because he wanted to play, and this is something we cannot control.”