Here, we will take a look at Lionel Messi’s top 5 penalties. The Argentinian wizard has been known for the humungous arsenal of skills that he has up his sleeve as well as some unthinkable goals in the past. His nimble-footed mastery has baffled many defenders over the years. Statistics of 243 goals in a playing time of 21580 minutes in La Liga is always an impressive one and has been an object of amazement for many football pundits around the globe. Commentators are at a loss of words to describe the goals that he scores and are limited to phrases like “How magnificent is Messi? There is no answer” and “Messi produces a rainbow and there’s a pot of gold under it.” These phrases are evidence to the cult status that Messi sets for himself in modern-day football. He has converted many match-winning goals in the recent past but not all of them have come from situations where he has outwitted his opponents to score past the outstretched keeper. Dead-ball situations have also been at the forefront of the little Argentine’s mind as he converted those into goals, too. As his free kicks swerved and dipped, his penalties were placed but not powered. The accuracy of these penalties was a delight to watch and screamed perfection from all angles. So, lets go through some of these penalties which proved to be pivotal in Barcelona’s success.
5. vs Espanyol (A), La Liga, 2013/2014
Barcelona manager, Gerardo Martino, was beginning to get heavily criticized for the unattractive playing style that Barcelona fans were so unused to. The tiki-taka style could only be seen in glimpses in their play and this had made many teams take advantage of them. Messi was also kept silent by his opponents as he just managed 41 goals in 47 appearances – a statistic that would have been revered by any other striker but not by the likes of Messi. With Atletico reigning at the top, Barcelona needed to win to close the gap on Atletico and also to prevent their title rivals Real Madrid from coming any closer as they would be level with Barcelona even if Barca got a draw as Real were playing an extremely weak team in Rayo Vallecano. So, Barcelona travelled to their local rivals Espanyol, expecting nothing less than a win. They were made to toil for it as they squandered numerous chances but still kept pressurizing the Espanyol goal. And their resilience bore the gifts when Javi Lopez gave away a penalty with 14 minutes remaining. Messi stepped up to score a well placed penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way and helping Barca win the match 1-0. The result meant that Barcelona were still on the heels of Atletico in the championship race. The white flag hadn’t been waved yet.
4. vs Real Madrid (A), La Liga, 2013/2014
In one of the greatest El Classico matches in football history, the little wizard came to fore with a brilliant performance against his bitter rivals. After scoring two goals in the match, Messi had conquered another record of most goals scored in El Classicos previously held by Alfredo di Stefano. After Ronaldo scored a penalty to give Madrid the lead, yet again, in the match, Messi proved that he is not much far behind the Portuguese as he stepped up to score a penalty of his own. But the deciding penalty would come and it came late on in the 84th minute when Xabi Alonso fouled Iniesta in the box. The diminuitive Argentine stepped up again to take it and, striking it high into the top corner, he completed his hattrick and sent the Barcelona fans into raptures at the end of the match. Messi had again, single-handedly put them safe from a tough spot and his penalty in the end would have been a relief for both Barcelona and their fans alike.
3. vs Valencia , La Liga, 2013/2014
When somebody as prolific as Messi goes on a goal drought for nearly 10 hours, the viewer starts to doubt his own existence in the world as a world where Messi doesn’t score penalties is an alien one. People were beginning to wonder whether Messi is just like another Nani or Quaresma who promised quality but faded away with time as their opponents started reading their game well. Therefore, as they travelled to the Mestalla, Barcelona continued their prayers for the drought to end. With Valencia leading 2-1, the match continued till the 52nd minute when the ball hit Costa’s shoulder but the referee saw the ball hitting his hand. Thus, a penalty to Barca. Messi steps up and smashes it into the top right corner of the net. A scorcher of a penalty from a scorcher of player. He just reminded his critics that legends never say die and he is one of them. Thus, his goalscoring prolificacy started, yet again.
2. vs Manchester City (H), UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg, 2013/2014
Messi had never scored a goal against an English club away from home. Manchester City had never won the Champions League nor had they played against the Catalans in the past. Both the teams had big-name players. It was all to play for at the Etihad. City had problems dealing with Barcelona’s flowing passing moves but they made amends for it by strengthening their own attacking prowess consistently in the game. Barcelona were feeling the pressure just when Messi got a penalty in the 54th minute and he fired it past City keeper Joe Hart, converting 11 goals in 11 games for him since returning from an injury. A key contribution by the Argentine, who had an unusually quiet night. This inspired the team to press further for yet another goal by Dani Alves late on in the match to win it 2-0. But the foundation stone was laid by Messi and it will never be forgotten by his teammates and fans alike.
1. Vs AC Milan(A) , UEFA Champions League Group Stage , 2010/2011
Fake penalties are not something that we usually see nowadays. Yes, people do stop in their run-up to take a penalty but that’s not what fake penalties are. This term basically means that the player stops just before he has to kick the ball and, when he sees that the keeper has committed himself, he places the ball into the vacant area of the net. Termed as “cheating”, it was first made popular by the man himself, Lionel Messi, when he scored one against Milan in the 29th minute. After the penalty was disallowed and Messi was yellow carded for that, he sent another penalty across Abbiati into the bottom right corner of the net to give the Catalans a 2-1 lead at the San Siro, which then converted into a 3-2 win for them at the final whistle. The allowed penalty will thoroughly be remembered due to the preceding incident. Though termed as ugly, it may just be an evidence of the amount of control that Messi has on his body and the mind that goes with it. A top-class cunning mastermind.Published 10 Jun 2014, 18:03 IST