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Messi scores 4 to send Guardiola off with victory
BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) - Lionel Messi scored four times to take his season tally to an unprecedented 72 goals and give Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola a 4-0 win over crosstown rival Espanyol in his last home game at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Messi’s scoring display was a fitting farewell for the coach who helped the Argentina forward become the world’s best player and forged Barcelona into one of the best teams to have played soccer.
The only other player to have scored 70 goals in a first-division season was Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924-25.
Real Madrid, which clinched the league title in the last round, won 2-1 at Granada thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 45th league goal and David Cortes’ own goal in stoppage time.
“Life has given me this gift during the past five years of being able to live with these players and enjoy this spectacle,” Guardiola told the packed stands following his 97th win in 118 home games.
“I have been the privileged one, to feel so loved and admired during all these years. Many thanks to all, above all to those who I have worked with every day.”
Guardiola will coach Barcelona’s last league game at Real Betis before having a chance at a 14th piece of silverware in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao. Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova will then take over.
In Granada, Madrid fell behind early after Franco Jara robbed Marcelo of the ball, charged up the field and shot under the legs of Madrid goalkeeper Adan Garrido, playing in place of Iker Casillas.
But Ronaldo converted a penalty in the 82nd and Cortes turned a cross into his own goal three minutes into injury time.
Madrid has 97 points and can set a league record with 100 points with a win over Mallorca in the final round.
Elsewhere, Valencia beat Villarreal 1-0 to clinch third place for the third straight season and automatically qualify for next season’s Champions league.
Atletico Madrid beat fourth-place Malaga 2-1, giving it a shot at overtaking the Costa del Sol club in the final round and claiming Spain’s last Champions League playoff spot.
The race to avoid the drop could not be tighter after Zaragoza downed the already-relegated Racing Santander 2-1 and Sporting Gijon beat Betis 1-0. Second-to-last place Sporting has 37 points. Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano both have 40, while Villarreal has 41 and Granada 42.
By returning to goodness, the nation can achieve greatness once again
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