BARCELONA, Spain, Dec 19, (AP): Lionel Messi reached another personal scoring milestone in Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with Valencia in the Spanish league on Saturday. Messi’s 643rd career goal for Barcelona since his 2004 debut matched Pelé’s tally for Santos accumulated from 1957-74. Messi is Barcelona’s and the Spanish league’s all-time leading scorer. The latest setback by Barcelona left Ronald Koeman’s team in fifth place and eight points adrift of league leaders Atlético Madrid, which got two goals by Luis Suárez to help beat Elche 3-1.
Messi canceled out Mouctar Diakhaby’s opener for Valencia when he scored in first half injury time moments after Jaume Domènech saved his penalty shot. Jordi Alba recovered the rebound of Domènech’s save and crossed it to the far post where Messi headed it in. Central defender Ronald Araújo scored his first career goal for Barcelona with an acrobatic kick to put the hosts ahead at Camp Nou in the 53rd. But José Gayà set up Maxi Gómez to hit back for Valencia in the 69th and split the points.
The match featured two young Americans who started for both sides. Sergiño Dest, 20, played the full match as Barcelona’s right back, while 18-year-old Yunus Musah had to be substituted in the first half after the Valencia right back appeared to injury a leg. He walked off gingerly. Suárez’s goals were his first since he returned to action recently following his coronavirus infection. Suárez’s double ensured Atlético bounced back from losing to Real Madrid 2-0, their first defeat in the competition since February. The Uruguay striker’s seven goals make him joint top scorer of the league along with Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal and Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas. Suárez isn’t the dominant scorer he was at Barcelona before changing clubs this summer, but he is still a world-class finisher when his teammates get him the ball in scoring position.
He put the hosts ahead in the 41st minute with a subtle touch to roll a long pass by Kieran Trippier past on-rushing goalkeeper Édgar Badía. Suárez added the second in the 58th when he slid to sweep home a low ball sent to the far post by Yannick Carrasco. Lucas Boyé got one back for Elche with a header in the 64th and drew a one-handed save from Jan Oblak minutes later. But substitute Diego Costa put the result beyond doubt when he earned and converted a penalty with 10 minutes remaining. It was Costa’s first appearance after missing seven games due to injury.
Meanwhile Athletic Bilbao spoiled Huesca’s party by 2-0 and sent the Aragonese club to the bottom of the Spanish league . Athletic was being shaded at home until the 86th minute when Bosnian forward Kenan Kodro drew a foul in the box from central defender Jorge Pulido. Pulido left thanks to a second yellow card and Kodro slotted the spot kick down the middle.
The lead was doubled in injury time after center back Unai Nunez’s header to a cross from Jon Morcillo. Athletic moved into the top half of the standings. Huesca were on a high from two successive wins, their first in the league last weekend and a win in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday. But they couldn’t finish chances on. Javier Ontiveros had the only two shots on target in the first half, and a belter from a 40-yard free kick in the second half just missed to the left.