‘Never seen anything like it’: Messi scores ‘Panenka’ free-kick as Barca beat Espanyol

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You’d imagine Lionel Messi is running out of new ground to break with his footballing genius, but the Barcelona star took things up another notch by scoring a ‘Panenka-style’ free-kick against Espanyol in La Liga on Saturday.

Messi struck twice inside the last 20 minutes at the Nou Camp to seal the win for Barca in the Catalan derby and put them 13 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi’s second was a well-taken finish on 89 minutes when he turned home a powerful Malcolm cross from 15 yards out, but it was the Argentine’s first goal that had the internet buzzing.

Having struggled to break down a resilient Espanyol backline, Barca won a free-kick in Messi territory right on the edge of the box.

The proximity of the ball to the goal, however, meant that it would take something special to get the ball up and over the wall and trouble Diego Lopez in the Espanyol goal.

But ever the magician, Messi had something special up his sleeve as his dinked the ball softly over the wall in a ‘Panenka’ style generally associated with cheeky penalty kicks.

The ploy took Espanyol unawares, as Lopez scrambled across his line and Victor Sanchez dashed back in vain, only the help the ball into the net with his head.

Messi was credited with the goal, and his audacious strike had the more than 90,000 fans at the Nou Camp gushing, as well as the internet fawning yet again over a man who has seemingly taken Panenka penalties into a whole new genre.

Messi reached yet more key milestones in the game on Saturday, moving up into second outright on the list of all-time Barcelona appearances, ahead of midfield legend Andres Iniesta and behind only Xavi.    

Messi’s double also meant he had registered at least 40 goals in each season for the past decade, the testament to the 31-year-olds incredible longevity at the very top of the game.

With the victory, Messi also tied legendary Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas for the most wins in La Liga on 334.  

Saturday’s match had been billed as a meeting of Messi against Espanyol’s Chinese star Wu Lei, who joined the club in January and whose appearances are watched by tens of millions in his homeland.

In the end, Wu was named on the bench and was only introduced as a second-half substitute, failing to make a significant impact as Messi yet again stole the show.