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Messi strikes twice as Barcelona strengthen hold on top spot

11 Nov 2012 19:18:15

Messi strikes twice as Barcelona strengthen hold on top spot

Lionel Messi struck twice as leaders Barcelona survived a second-half spell of pressure at Mallorca to win 4-2 and strengthen their position at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

Xavi Hernandez, Messi and Cristian Tello got first-half goals for the Catalans before Victor Casadesus and Michael Pereira reduced the lead after the interval.

Messi then hit his fifteenth in the league to wrap up the game and make it 76 goals now in 2012, beating Pele's tally of 75 from 1958 and taking him to within nine of Gerd Muller's all time record total of 85 set in 1972.

The win increases Barca's lead to six points at the top, ahead of games for Atletico and Real Madrid, who sit 2nd and 3rd, later on Sunday.

Barca made five changes from the side that had lost 2-1 to Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, David Villa and Tello all starting.

The visitors began slowly and Mallorca enjoyed the better early chances.

Barca keeper Valdes was alert to tip wide a header from Israeli international Tomer Hemed on 22 minutes.

However, five minutes later Barca were ahead when Xavi curled a perfect free-kick over the defensive wall after Jose Luis Marti fouled Fabregas on the left edge of the area.

Mallorca centre-half Pedro Geromel saved an almost certain second on 34 minutes when a Tello cross was about to find Villa in front of an open goal.

Barca were now on top and looking to add to their lead and did so on 43 minutes when Messi went on a run and hit a well struck shot - though Dudu Aouate in the Mallorca goal should have done better than allow the ball to squirm out of his hands and into the net.

A minute later and Tello controlled a pass on the left-wing before cutting inside and unleashing a right-footed drive that went across Aouate and into the far corner.

Half-time arrived and Barca suddenly had a three-goal cushion they hardly deserved.

Mallorca began to find their way back into it early in the second-half, however.

A Casadesus drive was blocked by Fabregas before Michael Pereira converted a right wing cross to reduce the lead on 55 minutes.

Two minutes later Busquets' outstretched hand made enough contact with the ball for the referee to award a penalty that Casadesus converted to reduce the arrears to 3-2.

Mallorca rallied without really causing too much trouble before Messi smashed home his second on 76 minutes to make the game safe after Alexis Sanchez had cleverly chested a cross into his path.

Earlier on Sunday Athletic Bilbao battled to a hard fought 2-1 win over Sevilla despite finishing the game with ten men.

Oscar de Marcos put Bilbao ahead on 27 minutes side-footing home a cross from Jon Aurtenetxe before Markel Susaeta doubled the lead just before the interval.

Ander Herrera received his marching orders for a second caution with fifteen minutes remaining, and Alvaro Negredo struck a penalty four minutes later to give the away side some hope.

However Bilbao held on to claim the win that moves them to within a point of Sevilla, who have 15, in mid-table.

Also on 15 points are Valladolid and Valencia, who drew 1-1 with Ali Cissokho in the thick of the action.

Valencia's French full-back opened the scoring in the first-half but then received a straight red for a trip in the area on Omar Ramos.

Victor Perez converted the penalty for a share of the points.


AFP

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