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Nov 21, 2012

Messi keeps it low-key as records tumble

Despite scoring two goals to take him to 80 in a calendar year, Lionel Messi said the most important thing was reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League after Barclona's 3-0 win at Spartak Moscow.

The brace took Messi, 25, to within five goals of Gerd Muller's calendar year record of 85, dating back to 1972, and saw him join Ruud Van Nistelrooy in second place in the Champions League all-time scorers list on 56.

Ex-Real Madrid and Schalke legend Raul tops that chart with 71.

The Argentine was characteristically low-key about his accomplishment, telling Canal Plus he was just happy his team had not slipped up as they did when losing 1-2 at Celtic earlier this month.

"We knew we had to come out strong at the start," Messi said. "We could not let what happened against Celtic happen again.

"It is never easy in this competition, especially with the opponent, the pitch - everything was difficult. But we played well and did everything well."

Some of the more obscure records Messi equalled at Moscow's Stadion Luzhniki included matching Raul's achievement of scoring in 19 different cities in the Champions League and reaching the mark of 25 international competition goals in one year, set by former Spurs and Chelsea striker Vivian Woodward in 1909.

He has also now scored in all 14 countries in which he has played a competitive game, but said: "The important thing is the team's victory and controlling the ball to retain possession."

Messi tops this season's Champions League goalscoring charts with five in five games, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo of Madrid, Alan of Braga and Burak Yilmaz of Galatasaray, and the Barca man remains firm favourite to complete a fifth successive season as the competition's top scorer.

But he preferred to talk of his team-mates' achievement of keeping a first clean sheet in five matches.

"Not conceding goals gives a boost to everyone," he said. "Obviously we did not like conceding goals in other games, so keeping a clean sheet was important for everyone."

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