BBVA: Messi nets four as Barca rout Osasuna

DIFFERENT CLASS::Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has scored more goals on his own than all the other La Liga teams apart from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid

Reuters, MADRID

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 - Page 18

Lionel Messi hit four goals for leaders Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a hat-trick for Real Madrid as the two teams warmed up for their midweek Copa del Rey semi-final clash with crushing La Liga victories on Sunday.

Messi took his league tally in 21 games this season to an incredible 33, and to 202 overall, in Barca’s 5-1 win at home to 10-man CA Osasuna, while Ronaldo passed 300 club goals and now has 21 this term as Real thumped Getafe 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Barca’s return to winning ways after the previous weekend’s 3-2 reverse at Real Sociedad, their first defeat of the campaign, put them 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who lost 3-0 at Athletic Bilbao.

Champions Real, whose hopes of a second straight title are effectively over with 17 matches to go, are four points behind Atletico in third spot.

Malaga reclaimed Spain’s fourth UEFA Champions League qualification berth from Andalusian rivals Real Betis Balompie when the Qatar-owned club survived the second-half dismissal of Martin Demichelis to win 3-2 at struggling RCD Mallorca.

Malaga have 35 points, eight behind Real, and lead Betis on goal-difference.

Rayo Vallecano de Madrid continued to defy their modest status and are a point behind Betis in sixth place after they beat the Seville-based side 3-0.

World Player of the Year Messi became the first player to score in 11 successive La Liga matches and, at 25, the youngest to reach 200 league goals.

He has scored more goals on his own than all the other La Liga teams apart from Real and Atletico, and is on course to smash the record for the most in a season (50) he set last term.

The Argentina international forward opened the scoring in the 11th minute at the Camp Nou when he was sent clear in the penalty area by a pinpoint Xavi pass.

Messi cleverly waited for Osasuna goalkeeper Andres Fernandez to go to ground, before walking the ball into the net.

The visitors, who are third from bottom on 18 points, equalized in the 24th minute through midfielder Raoul Loe, but their chances of causing an upset were ended when Alejandro Arribas was shown a second yellow card three minutes later.

Defender Arribas handled in the penalty area and Messi hammered the ball home from the spot, before Daniel Alves unselfishly set up Pedro to tap in Barca’s third goal five minutes before the break.

Messi, who also headed against the post in the first half, completed his hat-trick in the 56th minute and grabbed a fourth two minutes later.

“The important thing was to get through the match because when so much is being said about the Clasico [against Real Madrid] it’s not easy,” Messi told reporters.

“We came out the same way as always and we achieved our goal,” he said.

Real, who host holders Barca in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Wednesday, put a turbulent week behind them with Portuguese Ronaldo again on song.

The buildup to the game was dominated by a report in the Marca sports daily that said captains Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos had threatened to leave unless coach Jose Mourinho was dismissed.

Real president Florentino Perez called a press conference to deny the story, accusing the newspaper of lying, and the Spanish champions let their soccer do the talking on Sunday with a comfortable victory against their city rivals.

Mourinho, who turned 50 on Saturday, left several key players out of his starting lineup, including Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, while goalkeeper Casillas was missing after breaking a bone in his hand last week.

Barca interim coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova, who is recovering after throat surgery, also rested Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, the latter only coming on for Xavi late in the game.

Real struggled to break through a determined Getafe defense in the first half, but once Ramos had scrambled the ball into the net from a corner eight minutes after the break the home side turned the screw.

Ronaldo struck three times in 10 minutes, the first his 300th club goal.

The Portuguese, who was substituted with 15 minutes left after a knock to his right ankle, scored five for Portugal’s Sporting, 118 for Manchester United and now has 179 for Real thanks to his 20th career hat-trick.

Real centerback Ricardo Carvalho appeared to impede Getafe goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya with his arm in the lead-up to the opening goal.

“It was a very quick passage of play for the Ramos goal and I don’t know if it was a foul or not,” Portuguese Carvalho said. “The important thing was to win in that way, so we can be stronger for the Copa and the Champions League.”

Getafe, who beat Real 2-1 at their Coliseum Alfonso Perez earlier in the season, but whose form has dipped in recent weeks, are 11th on 26 points, one ahead of Bilbao.