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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Messi record as Barcelona bounce back


(CNN) -- Lionel Messi scored a record 50th goal this season as Barcelona bounced back from midweek Spanish Cup heartache to maintain an eight-point lead in La Liga on Saturday.

The two-time world player of the year became the first player to reach the half-century mark in a Spanish season as he moved past Real Madrid's Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas in a 2-0 win over Osasuna.

The 23-year-old scored 47 in all competitions last season, matching Brazil legend Ronaldo's Barcelona record.
Coach Pep Guardiola followed Real's Jose Mourinho in fielding a much-changed line-up ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semifinal first leg between the two teams in Madrid.

Real star Ramos laughs off trophy blunder

But while Messi started on the bench, David Villa retained his place up front -- and it was the Spain striker who broke the deadlock in the 24th minute when he scored his first goal since February.

Villa slid home at the far post to convert a superb low cross from the left by Jeffren for his 18th league goal this season, and first in 11 matches.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi came on in the second half, and the Argentina forward -- who replaced Villa -- settled the match with three minutes to play after being set up by Dani Alves.

The victory left Barca on course for a third straight title with five matches to play, while Osasuna remained two points above the relegation zone.

Real got the better of Barca for the first time this season with a strong defensive effort in Valencia, but went all guns blazing in Saturday's return to the Mestalla.

Is Mourinho the master of mind games?

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick and Brazil star Kaka netted twice in a match that Madrid led 5-0 after 53 minutes.

France striker Karim Benzema opened the floodgates in the 23rd minute, and Higuain had completed his treble by the time in-form striker Roberto Soldado pulled one back on the hour for Valencia.

But Kaka, who set up two of Higuain's efforts, restored Real's five-goal advantage with a superb solo burst into the box just two minutes later.

Valencia threatened a late comeback when Jonas and substitute Jordi Alba scored in the last 10 minutes, but the match highlighted the gulf of class in Spain with Real moving 17 points clear of the home team.

In Saturday's late match, fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao beat Basque rivals Real Sociedad 2-1 to move five points clear of Sevilla, who host Champions League hopefuls Villarreal on Sunday.

Teenager Iker Muniain and Gaizka Toquero scored inside the opening half hour, but an own-goal by Javi Martinez soon after the latter's effort gave the 13th-placed visitors hope.


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