Liga - Messi breaks goals record as Barcelona beat Betis

La Liga, Estadio Benito Villamarín – Real Betis 1 (Ruben Castro 39) Barcelona 2 (Messi 16, 25)

Lionel Messi broke Gerd Mueller’s record for goals in a calendar year as he scored his 86th of 2012 in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Real Betis.

The Argentina international had been doubtful for the game with a knee injury but was named in Barcelona’s starting line-up and scored after just 16 minutes to level Mueller’s 40-year-old record of 85, set while playing for Bayern Munich in 1972.

The World Player of the Year then fired in a second to surpass the German legend as he took just 25 minutes to re-write the record books.

Mueller achieved his record with West Germany and Bayern, but Messi’s 74 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina have taken him beyond the World Cup winner.

There was a second record for Messi, who now has 191 career Liga goals for Barcelona - more than anyone else in history. The previous record of 190 was held by Cesar Rodriguez, who played for the club in the 1940s and 50s.

Many more should follow for 'the flea', who is widely expected to win the World Player of the Year award for a fourth year running.

The 25-year-old’s first goal saw him dribble the ball beyond a stretched Betis defence before firing across goal and into the bottom corner.

His second was the result of a fabulous exchange with Andres Iniesta, whose backheel was hit first time into the far corner by a rampant Messi.

Messi has scored 56 in La Liga, 13 in the Champions League, three in the Copa del Rey and two in the Spanish Supercopa, with three games still to play before the end of the year.

Mueller, known as the "torpedo", set the record as a 27-year-old, netting 72 for Bayern and 13 for West Germany.

Barcelona maintained their six-point lead in La Liga but did not have things all their own way against fifth-placed Betis.

Iniesta came close to extending the Catalans' lead with an impudent first-half chip but Barca were pegged back when Ruben Castro was allowed the freedom of the penalty area to curl beyond Victor Valdes.

Barca found themselves under pressure for much of the second-half, and after Valdes had almost dropped the ball at the feet of Castro, a Betis corner flicked off Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique on to the inside of the post before trickling to safety.

Pedro should have made the game safe but was denied by Adrian as he went one-on-one with the goalkeeper, before Betis substitute Alejandro Pozuelo struck the post with a thunderous drive.

Messi almost completed his hat-trick late on when he turned superbly in the area, only to see Adrian push his effort onto the post. Jordi Alba then fired the rebound against the top of the bar when it looked easier to score.

Barca held on for their eighth successive away win this season, but the evening was all about Messi who further cemented his position as one of the game’s all-time greats.