A brace from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona clinch a 3-0 victory over Sevilla on Saturday and open a six-point lead at the top of the Spanish league as Real Madrid crashed 3-1 at city rivals Getafe.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola had told his players beforehand to show commitment and it was needed against a Sevilla side who battled for every ball. The game was played at a frantic pace with few clear chances, but it was Barcelona who made the most of theirs, with Messi once again the outstanding player.
In the opening minutes, Luis Fabiano shot over from inside the box for Sevilla, but after 20 minutes it was Samuel Eto’o who opened the scoring, latching onto a loose ball in the area and firing home. Fabiano then went close again and Frederic Kanoute felt unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after tumbling in the box following a challenge from Gerard Pique, but the clearest chance came later for Kanoute who could only hit the crossbar after beating the offside trap.
In the second half, both sides were reduced to shots from distance before Messi took center stage. The Argentine ran onto a ball from midfield and volleyed into the corner from 25m to extend Barca’s lead after 78 minutes and then he completed his brace in injury time, rounding the keeper before slotting home.
Sevilla’s night was made worse by the controversial dismissal of Fabiano for elbowing Sergio Busquets.
“I’m happy as this was a step forward for us and these are important points against a very strong rival,” Guardiola said. “In the first half, we were sloppy and took a lot of risks, but after the break we were a lot better and more organized.”
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez said: “In the second half they showed what they are capable of doing. In the first half Sevilla played well and it was unfair that Barcelona went into the interval with a lead, but afterwards they were lethal. The quality of Daniel [Alves], Messi and Xavi [Hernandez] caused us a lot of damage and to say otherwise would be lying.”
Earlier, a convincing 3-1 victory by Getafe piled the pressure on Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster, whose side have now lost two out their last three league games.
“It was not a painful defeat because from the start of the game it was clear that it would have been very difficult to win,” Schuster said. “A lot of things happened in the match and at no time did we have the feeling that we could win. Getafe were superior and they produced a spectacular game.”
Schuster was forced into fielding a makeshift team with seven players unavailable and they got off to the worst possible start, conceding a goal after just three minutes when Juan Angel Albin converted a Jaime Gavilan cross.
Getafe, brimming with confidence following their draw against Barcelona a week ago, continued to take the game to Real, whose outlook further deteriorated with Wesley Sneijder and Miguel Torres both limped off before halftime.
Fernando Gago did graze the crossbar, but Real were unable to take a hold of the game and only a few minutes after the interval Albin knocked in his second, slipping the ball past Iker Casillas.
Real were given hope when Javier Saviola finished well inside the area, after Juan Guti had won back possession, but rather than building on the goal, Madrid soon lost impetus and it was Getafe who looked more likely to score again.