Messi scores 50th international goal

The Barcelona superstar's goalscoring exploits make him only the second player in Argentine history to reach a half century of goals. The 28-year-old striker is now closing in on legendary scorer Gabriel Batistuta's record of 56 goals, set between 1991 and 2002.

Argentina's Lionel Messi gestures after scoring a goal against Bolivia on Tuesday.   -  REUTERS

Lionel Messi scored his 50th international goal to give Argentina its third straight victory in South America's 2018 World Cup qualifying tournament in Santiago on Tuesday.

Messi swept in an emphatic spot-kick after half an hour to help Argentina to a 2-0 win over Bolivia at the Estadio Mario Kempes in Cordoba, lifting the two-time world champions to third in the overall standings.

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The Barcelona superstar's goalscoring exploits make him only the second player in Argentine history to reach a half century of goals.

The 28-year-old striker is now closing in on legendary scorer Gabriel Batistuta's record of 56 goals, set between 1991 and 2002.

Messi now also needs only one more goal to reach 500 goals for club and country — raising the prospect that he could achieve that milestone with Barcelona this weekend when the Spanish giants take on Real Madrid in the Clasico.

Messi, meanwhile, was satisfied with yet another Argentina win, which suggests its troubled start to qualifying — which began with a shock 2-0 home defeat to Ecuador — is firmly in the rear view mirror.

"Beating Bolivia and Chile is what we wanted," said Messi, referring to last week's hard-fought win over the Chileans in Santiago. "We've come from a low position in the standings to a high one, but there is still a long way to go," Messi added.