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Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012

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What a year: Lionel Messi gives a thumbs-up sign during Barcelona's 2-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday. Messi scored twice to break Gerd Muller's record for most goals in a year. AFP-JIJI

Messi snaps Muller's mark in Barca victory

AP

BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi broke German great Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record for most goals in a year by scoring for the 86th time in 2012 on Sunday.

The Argentina forward scored twice to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win at Real Betis in the Spanish League match.

His first was an individual effort in the 16th minute to tie Muller's mark, and he eclipsed the 1972 milestone with a familiar left-footed finish nine minutes later.

"As I have said many times, the record is nice but the important thing is the victory that keeps us on the patch we want to continue on," Messi said. "As I always say, my objectives are on a team level: to win the league, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey again."

Messi has scored 74 goals for Barcelona and 12 times for Argentina this year, and he has three more games in which he can add to his tally before the end of the year. Muller scored 85 for Bayern Munich and West Germany.

The 25-year-old Messi passed Brazil great Pele's single-season milestone of 75 goals for Brazil and Santos in 1958 with his 75th and 76th goals of the year on Nov. 11 to move into second place behind Muller.

After his record 50 goals in the Spanish League last season, Messi has led Barcelona to the best start in the history of the championship this season with 14 wins and a draw in the opening 15 rounds. The scoring ace has found the net 30 times already this season in all competitions for Barcelona.

"We won't see another player like (Messi)," Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said. "Not just because of his ability to score. But also for his ability to pass, play defense, and his understandings of the game. He is a global star that helps us in so many ways."

Messi, who became a father for the first time on Nov. 2 to a boy named Thiago, was announced as one of the three finalists for the FIFA world player of the year award along with teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi has won the Ballon d'Or award for the past three years in helping Barcelona win three Spanish League titles and two Champions League crowns, along with various other competitions.

He is seeking to become the only player to win the award for a fourth time when the winner is announced in Switzerland on Jan. 7.

Iniesta participated in both of Barcelona's goals in Seville on Sunday, and Messi said he would be happy to see his teammate win the award.

"If the Ballon d'Or is for Andres, he deserves it for everything he shows us game after game," Messi said.

Man United wins derby

AP

MANCHESTER, England — After spurning Manchester City's advances in the offseason, Robin van Persie scored the goal that ended the champions' unbeaten start to the Premier League season and took Manchester United six points clear of its neighbor on Sunday.

In his first Manchester derby since leaving Arsenal in August, Van Persie netted from a free kick in the third minute of stoppage time to clinch a 3-2 win.

"It was obviously a difficult angle, but we work on that together at the training ground," United striker Wayne Rooney said. "I had no doubt he could score from there, and thankfully he's won us the game."

The goal wiped out City's comeback after the hosts responded to Rooney's first-half double with goals from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta after the break.

The end of the match was marred by crowd disorder that resulted in United defender Rio Ferdinand bleeding above his left eye after being hit by a coin and City goalkeeper Joe Hart confronting a pitch invader.

United was at Etihad Stadium for the first time since relinquishing the Premier League trophy to City, ending a 44-year English league title drought.

Also Sunday, Everton dislodged Tottenham from fourth place by beating the north London side 2-1 with two stoppage-time goals, while Liverpool won 3-2 at West Ham to sit four points behind the top four.



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