La Liga: Barcelona draws nearer to title, Celta Vigo runs from relegation
Jordi Alba's winner maintained Barcelona's nine-point cushion at the top of the La Liga table.
Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Celta Vigo v FC Barcelona - Balaidos, Vigo, Spain - May 4, 2019 Barcelona's Moussa Wague in action with Celta Vigo's Sofiane Boufal REUTERS/Miguel Vidal
Celta Vigo's Uruguayan forward Maxi Gomez (L) vies with Barcelona's French defender Jean-Clair Todibo during the Spanish league football match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo on May 4, 2019. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP) (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
Celta Vigo's Uruguayan forward Maxi Gomez (TOP) during the Spanish league football match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo on May 4, 2019. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP) (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
VIGO, SPAIN - MAY 04: Fans of Celta de Vigo receive their team before the La Liga match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at Abanca Balaidos Stadium on May 04, 2019 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
VIGO, SPAIN - MAY 04: Iago Aspas of RC Celta celebrates after scoring the second goal during the La Liga match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at Abanca-Balaidos on May 4, 2019 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
VIGO, May 4 (Reuters) - Barcelona fell to their first La Liga defeat since November as the champions were beaten 2-0 at struggling Celta Vigo after making 11 changes but forward Ousmane Dembele suffered an injury setback ahead of Tuesday's Champions League game at Liverpool.
Barcelona tips Levante, crowned champions of Spain again
Barcelona claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, as Lionel Messi came off the bench to sink visitors Levante.
The win took Celta on to 40 points and a step closer towards guaranteeing survival but it meant 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano became the first team to be relegated, after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Levante left them on 31 points from 36 games.
Uruguay forward Maxi Gomez gave Celta a deserved lead in the 67th minute, sliding to the floor to divert a low pass beyond Barca's reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, after the home side saw a goal ruled out for a marginal offside after a VAR review.
Celta's captain and talisman Iago Aspas then sealed the win by converting from the penalty spot after another VAR review ruled that Barca's Samuel Umtiti had handled the ball.
Barca's players were given a guard of honor by Celta when they came out of the tunnel before kick off after lifting an eighth title in 11 seasons last Saturday by beating Levante 1-0 at the Nou Camp.
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Many of the players who received the tribute, however, had done little to contribute to the title win.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were among a number of high profile players to be rested ahead of the trip to Anfield, where the Catalans are aiming to book their place in the Champions League final for the first time since 2015.
Dembele was one of few regular starters to face Celta but he had to be taken off in the sixth minute after hurting a muscle when attempting a sprint.
Barca said in a statement that Dembele had injured his right hamstring and that he would undergo further tests on Sunday, although the France forward is doubtful for the remainder of the campaign.
Barca, who lost for the first time since a 4-3 defeat to Real Betis nearly six months ago, have 83 points while second-placed Atletico have 74 after losing 3-0 at Espanyol earlier on Saturday.
Valverde put his side's defeat down to the many changes he made.
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"We dominated the game in spells but once they scored and they sensed they could win the game we had no response," he said.
"We were playing with a lot of new players and it was difficult for us to create chances. We created barely anything in the second half and didn't do nearly enough to score."
(Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Christian Radnedge)
Related slideshow: Lionel Messi's greatest achievements (provided by photo services)
Over 600 career goals, 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League trophies, five Ballon d'Or awards – Lionel Messi's list of awards and accomplishments could go on endlessly. We look at some of the Argentine's most stunning accolades so far.
All statistics correct as of April 28, 2019.
Barcelona’s all-time top scorer
Undoubtedly one of the club's most iconic figures of all time, Messi has scored 600 goals from 683 appearances.
All-time La Liga top scorer
Messi has scored 414 goals from 445 appearances. Ex-Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is second, with 311 from 292 games.
Can Barca study Manchester City's blueprint to find Liverpool's flaws?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Clubs will scout forthcoming opponents by examining past results, probing tactical approaches that have proved successful in order to determine an advantageous game plan. Barcelona welcome Liverpool to the Camp Nou on Wednesday, and for the recently crowned La Liga champions, a glance at the Reds' failings this season could provide the framework for progressing to the Champions League final; according to reports, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is thinking just that.
First to score in 15 consecutive La Liga seasons
On Aug. 18, 2018, his goal against Deportivo Alavés made him the first player to score in 15 consecutive Spanish league seasons. This was also F.C. Barcelona’s 6,000th goal. The club's 5,000th goal, scored in 2009, was also scored by Messi.
On Feb. 23, 2019, he scored his 50th career hat-trick during a match against Sevilla. His third goal also marked his 650th career strike – 585 for Barcelona and 65 for his national team, Argentina.
Most La Liga wins
On April 6, thanks to his goal against Atlético Madrid, Messi edged out former Spanish skipper Iker Casillas on the tables with 335 La Liga victories – the highest number of wins in the Spanish league.
Most goals in a La Liga season
The Barcelona icon scored 50 goals from 37 appearances in 2011/12. He almost repeated the feat the following season, scoring 46 times in only 32 games. Ronaldo came closer still during the 2014/15 season, scoring 48 times in 35 games.
Most goals scored in a calendar year
Messi's insatiable hunger for goals saw him score 91 in 2012 - 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina. The Guinness World Record holder for most goals in a calendar year, he also holds the record for most goals scored in a domestic season - 73 (2011-12).
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Most Ballon d’Or wins
The diminutive Argentine has five (2009, '10, '11, '12 and '15) wins to his name. He shares this record with Ronaldo, who won his fifth in December 2017.
The duo were denied the chance to pull ahead of the other in 2018, with Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić claiming the prize.
Most European Golden Boots
Messi added to his tally after the 2017-18 season, finishing with 34 goals (and 12 assists) from 36 games. His previous wins came in '09-10, '10-11, '12-13 and '16-17.
Fastest to 100 UEFA Champions League goals
Messi, who made his debut in the competition in 2004, against Ukraine's F.C. Shakhtar Donetsk, reached the landmark in 123 games.
Messi and Ronaldo, are the only players to have scored a century of goals in Europe's most prestigious club competition. However, the Portuguese took 144 games to reach the same mark.
Youngest to 250 La Liga goals
The Barcelona superstar was 27 when he reached the landmark. It came during a routine 3-0 league win over S.D. Eibar on Oct. 18, 2014. The record was previously held by Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra, who was 34 when he scored his 250th goal.
Only player to score in 23 cities
Messi has scored Champions League goals in Portugal, England, Scotland, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Belarus, Cyprus and, of course, Spain. That adds up to an impressive 23 goals across 16 cities.
Concussed Salah out of Liverpool's Champions League clash against Barcelona
Liverpool will be without top scorer Mohamed Salah for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final, second leg against Barcelona after manager Jurgen Klopp revealed he was concussed in a 3-2 win at Newcastle. The Egyptian was stretchered off at St James' Park on Saturday due to a head knock sustained as he challenged Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka for a high ball. "It's a concussion so that means he would not even be allowed to play. So that's it," said Klopp at his pre-match press conference on Monday. "He feels OK but it is not good enough from a medical point of view that is all. He's desperate (to play) everything but we cannot do it.
La Liga's top scorer (active)
Messi is a five-time winner of the Trofeo Pichichi ('09-10, '11-'12, '12-'13, '16-'17, '17-'18), which was named after legendary Athletic Bilbao striker Rafael "Pichichi" Moreno. The award is given by leading Spanish sports newspaper Marca and has been given to the top scorer in the league every year since 1952-53.
Messi's record is the most by a currently active player. The only one with more wins is Zarra (1921-2006), with six.
Most La Liga hat-tricks in a season
Even by his own standards, Messi was phenomenal in the 2011-12 season, scoring eight hat-tricks. In 2014-15, Ronaldo equaled this mark.
Most goals scored in El Clásico
Always an incendiary fixture, games between sworn rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid acquired an extra edge when Messi faced Ronaldo. The Argentine, however, is comfortably the top scorer with 26 goals to Ronaldo's second-best of 18 .
Argentina's all-time top scorer
Despite not enjoying the same level of success at the international level, Messi's goal record is impressive - 65 from 128 appearances. He made his national team debut on Aug. 17, 2005, in a friendly against Hungary that the South Americans won 2-1.
Youngest Argentine to score in a World Cup
Messi was 18 years, 11 months and 23 days old when he scored at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The goal, also his first for the national team, came in a group stage match against Serbia-Montenegro, which Argentina won 6-0. The South Americans advanced as group winners but were eliminated from the tournament at the quarter final stage by hosts Germany; they were beaten in a penalty shoot-out.
Youngest to make 100 appearances in Champions League
Messi was 28 years and 84 days old when he made his 100th appearance in the competition. The occasion was a group stage match against Italian side A.S. Roma, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy, on Sept. 16, 2015. The match finished 1-1.
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First to score 10+ goals in 13 consecutive La Liga seasons
Messi curled in two superb free kicks in a local derby against R.C.D. Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, on Dec. 9, 2018. In doing so, he became the first player in the history of the league to score a minimum of 10 goals, every year, for 13 straight seasons.
20+ goals in 10 consecutive seasons
The epitome of consistency, Messi has scored a minimum of 20 league goals, every season, starting from 2008-09. His lowest return for a league season was in the first year of this run, when he scored 23 goals from 34 games. He has enjoyed 40+ goal-seasons thrice in this time.
First to score against every team consecutively in a league
On scoring at the Balaídos Stadium in Vigo, Spain, during a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, Messi completed a remarkable scoring run during the 2012-13 season - he scored against every team in La Liga that year.
World's second highest-paid athlete
The soccer superstar ranked No. 2 on Forbes' annual list in 2018, with earnings of $111 million. Although he didn't top the list, he did beat Ronaldo; the top spot went to boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. who recorded $285 million in earnings.
Longest scoring run in La Liga
Messi scored 33 goals from 21 appearances during the '12-13 season. He scored a total of 46 goals from 32 games that season. However, his record of 21 games was halted by Atlético Madrid on May 12, 2013.
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Liverpool faces a 3-0 deficit heading into its second-leg UEFA Champions League match v. Barcelona at Anfield.