Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 19 News List

LFP: Messi grabs late Barca winner

BARCA BRILLIANCE:The Catalans are unbeaten in their past 20 away matches, beating a La Liga record set by Basque side Real Sociedad at the end of the 1970s

Reuters, MADRID

Lionel Messi missed a slew of chances before squeezing home a late strike to give Barcelona a 1-0 win at third-placed Valencia in La Liga on Wednesday and stretch the champions lead over Real Madrid to 10 points.

With Barca looking like they might drop points for only the fourth time this season, the Argentine struck a low shot in the 77th minute at the Mestalla that spun just inside the post off the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Messi’s league leading 27th goal lifted Barca to 71 points from 26 matches. They have now won 12 of 13 away games, drawing last month at Sporting Gijon in their only slip-up on the road.

They are also unbeaten in their last 20 away matches, beating a La Liga record set by Basque side Real Sociedad at the end of the 1970s.

Villarreal, breathed life into their bid for a place in next season’s Champions League earlier on Wednesday when Giuseppe Rossi struck to give them a 1-0 home win over Hercules.

The Italy forward sped on to Cani’s through ball in the 21st minute at the Madrigal and finished past Juan Calatayud to lift Villarreal to 50 points from 26 matches, one behind Valencia.

Messi should have put Barca ahead in the ninth minute at the Mestalla when he was denied three times in quick succession.

He had another great chance when he was clean through in the 31st but his chipped effort landed on the roof of net and he also skewed a shot just wide of goal early in the second half.

Valencia had several good opportunities of their own but Pablo Hernandez and substitute Roberto Soldado were unable to convert.

Europa League champions Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao stumbled in their campaigns for a European berth.

Atletico were held to a 1-1 draw at Getafe and Bilbao squandered the lead to lose 2-1 at Real Zaragoza.

Atletico are eighth on 35 points, three behind Bilbao and Sevilla, who beat visiting Sporting Gijon 3-0 on Tuesday.

Espanyol lost 2-1 at home to Real Mallorca on Tuesday and remain fifth on 40 points.

In other matches on Wednesday, Osasuna drew 0-0 with visiting Deportivo Coruna and Real Sociedad and Levante drew 1-1 in San Sebastian.

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