Messi double downs Sporting

Lionel Messi scored his 300th and 301st La Liga goals and Luis Suarez also netted as Barcelona beat Sporting Gijon.

Messi netted mid-way through the half, cutting inside onto his left foot, dancing past the attendant opponents and beating Ivan Cuellar from 20 yards.

The lead lasted barely two minutes, though, as Alex Menendez broke down the left and with the Barca defence at sea, crossed for Carlos Castro to equalise.

It didn’t last, though, as Messi and Suarez combined to set Messi off on another century minutes after Castro’s leveller.

Suarez got his 40th goal of the season in the second half with an individual effort, having missed a penalty by that point as well.

Both sides made changes from their last outing, Barca having five new faces and Sporting going for nine despite having an extra two days’ rest.

Barca dominated the ball in the first 10 minutes, as would be expected in the meeting of La Liga’s most ball-greedy side and the team who see the least of it, but an Alen Halilovic break and pass to Alex Melendez was the best chance of the opening period.

Not for another 10 minutes did Barca get a chance of note, when Neymar played in Luis Suarez but Cuellar stood up well and, by this time, Jordi Mere had received a boot to the ear and returned all bandaged up.

Castro netted for Sporting either side of Messi’s brace and the Argentine nearly had three in seven minutes, but for Cuellar reaching Messi’s side-foot effort from another Suarez pass, and Neymar hit the post as Barca stepped up a gear.

Neymar then got down the side of the Sporting defence and fired across goal as Barca looked to put daylight between themselves and their hosts before the interval.

Sporting came out with some ferocity for the second half, mostly seen in Halilovic, who raised Suarez’s ire with a snappy challenge and then smashed the ball into Sergio Busquets’ face from close range, though that was at least accidental.

Omar Mascarell, on loan from Real Madrid, tested Claudio Bravo with a stinging drive, and Halilovic crumpled to a heap under Arda Turan’s attention but his penalty appeals were rightly ignored.

Instead it was Barca who were given a penalty when Cuellar felled Neymar but made amends when saving from Suarez, who obviously should have passed it to Messi.

He didn’t pass just after the hour either, but this time, from open play, curled his shot into the far top corner of Cuellar’s net, and Suarez missed out when Arda got his knock-back all wrong from Messi’s lofted pass.

Neymar stung Cuellar’s palms and the goalkeeper had to be out quickly to beat Suarez to a Messi through ball, the 31-year-old entering a fine performance even in defeat.

Sporting Gijon 1-3 Barcelona

Messi 25, 31, Suarez 67 (FCB), Castro 27 (SG)

Sporting: Cuellar; Lora, Lichnovsky, Mere, Canella; Mascarell, Nacho Cases, Menendez (Barrera 74), Halilovic, Perez (Lopez 68); Castro (Jony 68)

Barcelona: Bravo; Vidal, Pique (Bartra 81), Mathieu, Adriano; Busquets (Mascherano 81), Arda, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Referee: Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea

Tags Lionel Messi Luis Suarez