Lionel Messi

After 1,027 minutes, Messi finally scores from open play

Messi tried, and tried, and tried, and at last he has his first open play goal of the season against Real Betis

1:23pm on Monday 9th November 2020
Paul Macdonald

Lionel Messi was going through the kind of scoring drought that is completely foreign to him, but he has finally broken it with a first goal from open play this season.

The Argentine came off the bench against Real Betis with the scores locked at 1-1 and after netting a penalty on the hour mark, he fired home at the near post from the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Messi had previously netted from the penalty spot on four occasions, against Villarreal, Ferencvaros and Juventus, and he did so again against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.

When it came creating a chance and scoring from a situation that isn't a set piece, he was tearing his hair out, going 1,027 minutes without finding the net.

But removing the penalty shots, he had struck 45 efforts at goal including his exploits with Argentina, averaging 4.6 efforts per game before his 82nd minute strike at the Nou Camp. That's quite the total.

Yes, there were times when he was extraordinarily unlucky. Against Alaves last weekend he struck 10 shots, and from one in particular Fernando Pacheco produced an unbelievable save, throwing himself to his right to flick Messi's curling shot around the post. Against Real Madrid Thibaut Courtois made a wonder-stop from close range to stop him, while against Celta Vigo he was thwarted more than once not through poor finishing, but inspired keeping.

And again last midweek, the 18-year-old Dynamo Kiev goalkeeper Ruslan Neshcheret pulled off two superb stops to deny him.

Lionel Messi
W (R), S (C) - Barcelona - 33 yrs
Oct 31, 2020
10Total shots
5Shots on target
50Final third passes
13Touches in box
18Duels won

But there is also wastage in volume too. His free-kicks - of which there were three versus Alaves - are particularly wasteful and he was becoming so desperate to end this run that he was shooting from places he wouldn't necessarily shoot from. His shot v Alaves from almost on the touchline highlighted his borderline desperation.

And his xG per shot was 0.07, is down from 0.12 in previous seasons, but with a brace it is back up to 0.16 in league action. This, again, suggests he wasn't shooting from optimal positions and therefore decreasing his chances of scoring.

His much publicised row with the Barcelona board has been psycho-analysed enough, but Messi has still been actively involved in matches rather than merely going through the motions.

Now that he finally has the goal one would expect the floodgates will open, but this record - especially given the attacking talent at Barcelona's disposal - is going to mean questions will be asked eventually of whether Messi's form is a blip, or a permanent downturn as he gets older.


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