Champions Barcelona moved back to within a point of leaders Real Madrid at the summit of La Liga, with Lionel Messi and David Villa both scoring braces in a 5-0 home romp over 10-man Sevilla at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Argentine Messi scored his sixth league goal of the season on four minutes, before Spanish World Cup star Villa answered his critics with a sensational second for his first league goal since late September.
Sevilla old boy Dani Alves made it 3-0 early in the second half, before Messi got his fourth goal in his last two league matches and Villa completed the scoring in the final minute.
Barcelona go above Villarreal into second, a point behind archrivals Real who had to come from behind for the first time this season to defeat promoted Hercules 3-1.
“We reacted to what [Jose] Mourinho said to us at halftime,” Real captain Iker Casillas said. “I am not going to reveal what he said, but it was just perfect.”
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a quadruple in his last league outing and scored twice on 82 and 86 minutes to make it 10 goals in his last four league matches and 11 for the season.
Barcelona had a much tougher test against Sevilla, but were a cut above against the Copa del Rey holders, seizing the initiative on four minutes when Messi accepted a poor punch from goalkeeper Javi Varas to drill home.
Sevilla had chances before Villa produced a moment of magic for his first league goal since Sept. 22.
Messi danced between two Sevilla players before feeding Villa, who cut inside on his left foot and curled a pinpoint shot into the top corner for his third league goal of the campaign.
Barcelona, with playmaker Xavi back from injury, were in complete control and Sevilla were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of halftime. French defender Abdoulay Konko collected two bookings inside three minutes, receiving the second for hacking down Pedro Rodriguez.
It was more of the same after the break and Brazilian Alves scored against his old side eight minutes after the restart, but didn’t celebrate out of respect for the club that launched his career.
Messi got his second on 64 minutes, stealing possession before driving at the heart of the Sevilla defense and the Argentine somehow found an angle to slide a low shot past Varas. Villa made it 5-0 in stoppage-time.
Real had plundered 16 goals in their last three league matches, but had to dig deep against a Hercules side that has already beaten Barcelona at the Camp Nou this season.
French striker David Treze-guet headed Hercules into a third-minute lead, the first time Real had gone behind this season.
Seven minutes after the break Madrid were level when Ronaldo’s dipping shot was spilled by goalkeeper Juan Calatayud and Argentine Angel di Maria pounced on the error to equalize.
Real had to wait until the 82nd minute to go ahead, with Ronaldo tapping in after French substitute Karim Benzema had his shot saved.
Benzema was again the provider four minutes later when his cut-back was slotted in neatly by Ronaldo.
Earlier, title hopefuls Valencia dropped two more points in a disappointing 1-1 home draw against 10-man Real Zaragoza.
Valencia are fourth, six points behind leaders Real Madrid.