MADRID: Lionel Messi equalled Pele’s record of 643 goals for a single club on Saturday but was unable to help Barcelona beat Valencia in La Liga as they had to settle for a 2-2 home draw.
Valencia went ahead at the Camp Nou when Mouctar Diakhaby pounced on some slack Barca defending to head home in the 29th minute.
Barca earned a penalty towards the end of the first half when Jose Gaya lightly pushed Antoine Griezmann in the back and was initially shown a red card which was then reduced to a yellow after the referee consulted the pitchside monitor.
Messi saw his penalty saved by Valencia keeper Jaume Domenech but Jordi Alba kept the ball alive and his deflected cross fell towards the Argentine, who dived to head the ball across the line and score the milestone goal.
Defender Ronald Araujo gave Barca the lead early in the second half with an acrobatic strike from inside the area but Valencia hit back in the 69th when Maxi Gomez turned in a cross from Gaya, denying the Catalans a third straight league win.
Pele scored 643 goals in 665 competitive games for Santos, while Messi needed 748 matches to reach the tally, although he did it in 17 seasons compared to the 19 Pele needed.
Pele, now 80, made his Santos debut aged 15 in 1956 and left in 1974 after winning six Brazilian league titles plus two Copa Libertadores crowns, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.
Messi, who made his first appearance for Barcelona aged 17 in 2004, has won 10 La Liga titles with the club plus four Champions Leagues.
Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez was back among the goals to help his side to a 3-1 win at home to Elche on Saturday, taking them three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Suarez scored either side of halftime to put Atletico two goals up, while Lucas Boye pulled one back for the struggling visitors before Diego Costa sealed the points for Diego Simeone’s side from the penalty spot.
In Gerrmany . . .
Robert Lewandowski hailed a year to remember as his two goals helped Bayern Munich come from behind to beat Bayer Leverkusen and go top of the Bundesliga, capping a fantastic 12 months for him and his team.
Lewandowski’s injury-time winner completed another comeback victory for Bayern, ensuring the champions sit top of the standings, ahead of Leverkusen, going into the Christmas break.
That 93rd-minute goal took the Pole’s tally this calendar year to 32 just two days after becoming the first Bundesliga player to be crowned the world’s best at the FIFA Best Awards.
Lewandowski said: “What a year we have had. We always want more and I hope that next year we will keep scoring goals like this to win matches in this way.”
The win at Leverkusen was the champions’ final match of a remarkable 2020, in which they won five trophies including the Champions League, finishing the calendar year having tasted just one loss in all competitions.
Bayern did fall behind for the seventh successive Bundesliga match, but in each of those seven games they have not lost.