MESSI STARS FOR BARCELONA

A review of the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division.

Last Updated: 11/03/12 at 23:05 Post Comment

Lionel Mess: Double as Barcelona claimed victory

Lionel Mess: Double as Barcelona claimed victory

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Barcelona moved back to within 10 points of Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division as another two goals from Lionel Messi gave them a 2-0 win at Racing Santander.

Andres Iniesta had hit the bar and Cesc Fabregas was denied by a fine save from Mario Fernandez before Messi did put the visitors in front as he slid in to meet Fabregas' cross on 29 minutes.

And the Argentinian doubled his and Barca's tally for the day when a penalty was given after Fabregas went down softly under Domingo Cisma's challenge and Messi sent Mario the wrong from the spot.

Valencia squandered a two-goal advantage as Real Mallorca hit back from two down to claim a point at the Mestalla.

Unai Emery's men held a comfortable lead at the break thanks to goals from Tino Costa and Aritz Aduriz but the visitors, who started the day just five points above the relegation zone, showed great heart to pull one back through Emilio Nsue before Victor equalised.

Valencia, who had Costa sent off late on, remain third and still look a good bet to claim a Champions League spot while the Balearic Islanders will reflect on a good away point.

Atletico Madrid claimed a hard-fought 2-0 win over Granada earlier in the day to move within four points of fourth-placed Malaga.

The visitors started brightly and had a decent penalty claim turned down when Ikechukwu Uche appeared to be bundled over by Miranda, but it was the Brazilian who put the hosts ahead at the other end when, in the 39th minute, he volleyed in Diego Godin's header.

The second period was played at a similarly pedestrian pace but after Granada had been reduced to 10 men when Henrique was dismissed in the 83rd minute, Radamel Falcao made sure of the three points as his shot squeezed under Julio Cesar after a wonderful run and cross from Juanfran.

Athletic Bilbao failed to build on Thursday night's hugely impressive Europa League victory at Manchester United, slumping to a 2-1 defeat at Osasuna.

The visitors, 3-2 winners at Old Trafford, were beaten by an own goal from Ander Iturraspe and a Raul Garcia header - both created by home captain Francisco Punal - with Fernando Llorente replying for the visitors.

Athletic boss Marcelo Bielsa outlined his priorities ahead of the midweek return against United by leaving Llorente, Ander Herrera and Javi Martinez on the bench and his decision backfired as his side missed the chance to move level on points with Malaga.

Espanyol remain locked on 36 points with Atletico as Kalu Uche's hat-trick inspired them to a 5-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano.

Uche and Philippe Coutinho grabbed first-half goals for the Catalans and Coutinho extended their lead to 3-0 before Rayo pulled a goal back after the break through former Espanyol favourite Raul Tamudo. Uche completed his treble soon after however to end any faint hopes of a comeback from the visiting side.

On Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in the second half as Real Madrid moved further clear at the summit - albeit temporarily - with a 3-2 comeback win over Real Betis.

Betis went ahead early on through Jorge Molina but Madrid battled back to lead with goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Ronaldo.

The home side refused to give in and equalised through Jefferson Montero's 55th-minute strike, but Ronaldo had the final word 17 minutes from time as Jose Mourinho's men recorded their 11th successive league win.

On-loan Sporting Gijon midfielder Andre Castro scored the only goal as Sevilla's European ambitions suffered a blow on a rowdy night at El Molinon.

Castro's sublime finish from an acute angle on 32 minutes gave the baying home fans reason for cheer as Sporting ended a seven-game winless run to boost their survival hopes.

A spicy atmosphere saw the home fans routinely throw paper balls at the Sevilla players whose frustration at the hostile atmosphere and Sporting's fine rearguard was evident by the end.

The final whistle prompted a skirmish involving a number of players, most notably Sevilla's Federico Fazio who had to be pulled away from a confrontation with home defender Gregory Arnolin.

On Friday, Jose Salomon Rondon scored the only goal as Malaga leapfrogged Levante into fourth place.

The hosts had by far the better of the opening period but it took them until six minutes after the break to take the lead when Rondon got the merest of touches to Joaquin's cross to divert the ball into the far corner.

Arouna Kone nearly brought the visitors level as he prodded just wide at the near post and after Isco, Rondon and Sebastian Fernandez passed up chances to seal the three points for Malaga, Nabil El Zhar came within inches of snatching a draw with the last kick of the game but his volley flew just over as the home side held on for the points.

Imanol Agirretxe scored twice as Real Sociedad cruised to a 3-0 win over Real Zaragoza.

The hosts were dominant from start to finish and had the points sewn up by half-time after three first-half goals.

Agirretxe got the first as he volleyed into an unguarded net after Roberto had parried David Zurutuza's cross on 18 minutes.

Three minutes later Carlos Vela made it two as his deflected effort wrong-footed Roberto and Agirretxe tapped home his second after Alberto de la Bella's cross had found him free at the back post.

Vela and Joseba Llorente should have added more goals in the second period but Zaragoza's miserable evening was completed when Maurizio Lanzaro was sent-off for a second bookable offence.

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