Barcelona 4-0 Espanyol | La Liga match report
Lionel Messi scored four times to take his tally for the season to an unprecedented 72 goals, and give the Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, a 4-0 win against cross-town rivals Espanyol in his last home game at Camp Nou.
Messi’s display was a fitting farewell for the coach who helped the Argentina forward become the world’s best player, and made Barcelona one of the best teams ever.
After scoring his Spanish league-record 50th goal late on, Messi went to the sideline to embrace Guardiola, who is leaving after 13 titles in four seasons.
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.
“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 a chance of a 14th piece of silverware, in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao. Guardiola’s assistant, Tito Vilanova, will then take over.
The stands were full of posters and signs in Guardiola’s honour, and a banner saying “Thanks Pep” hung on the outside of the stadium to greet the departing manager on arrival.
When Guardiola came out of the tunnel he was met by another enormous banner saying “We love you Pep!” and chants from the 89,044 fans.
Messi put Barcelona in front in the 12th minute with a free-kick, his curling delivery slightly grazing the defensive wall before finding the side of the net. Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer made it 2-0 in the 64th when Cristian Gómez handled a ball he had tried to flip by the defender.
Messi, who missed a critical penalty in Barcelona’s defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League, stroked an unreachable strike off the inside of the post and into the back of the net.
With the result beyond doubt, the game turned into a party for the home side, and it ended with an homage to its most successful manager ever.
Messi added another by racing on to a long pass and striking a left-footed shot in the 75th minute before he scored another penalty with 10 minutes left after Diego Forlín fouled Sergio Busquets.
This is the second time Guardiola has said goodbye to Barcelona. But his exit in 2001 after 11 seasons as a midfielder was not given special treatment from his boyhood club; the contrast this time round could not have been starker.
After the final whistle, the club played a video in Guardiola’s honour, with the highlights of his coaching career, which included two Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns. The former midfielder then danced with his team in a circle in the middle of the pitch.
“Know that I will miss you all,” Guardiola told the crowd. “But I am leaving you all in the good hands of these players.”