Lionel Messi notched his 35th league goal of the season as an understrength Barcelona strolled to a crushing 6-1 home win against Getafe that put them 12 points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday.
Alexis Sanchez and David Villa made the most of a rare place in the starting lineup with goals either side of Messi’s strike, while Andres Iniesta, Cristian Tello and Gerard Pique were also on the scoresheet as a rampant Barca racked up a 20th victory in 23 matches to move on to 62 points.
Atletico were upset 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in Sunday’s late kickoff and stay on 50 points, four ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, who thrashed Sevilla 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
“We are not going to repeat all the praise we have showered on him [Messi],” Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said in an interview with Spanish TV broadcaster Canal Plus. “Alexis and Villa gave us a lot of speed and created spaces, and showed they are also capable of putting the ball away. Some of the players who don’t feature so often were very impressive.”
Barca’s interim coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova, who is recovering from throat surgery, rested several key players for Getafe’s visit to the Camp Nou, including Spain trio Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.
They were also missing playmaker Xavi through injury, with Thiago Alcantara and Iniesta running the show in the midfield in the absence of their Spain teammate.
Unusually, Barca had been handed the midday kickoff slot, but the unfamiliar starting time failed to dampen the players’ hunger for victory in front of more than 85,000 fans thronging the giant arena and enjoying the sunshine.
Alexis struck in the sixth minute, Messi made it 2-0 seven minutes later and Villa put the game well beyond Getafe with a third just before the hour.
As Getafe started to wilt, Messi surged forward and laid the ball off for substitute Tello to curl in a fourth 11 minutes from time, before a mistake from Jordi Alba let in Alvaro Vazquez to pull a goal back for the visitors in the 83rd minute.
Iniesta, who caused Getafe constant problems with his pace and guile, fired in from close range in the 90th minute and Pique rounded off the party in the second minute of stoppage-time with a tap-in from Thiago’s unselfish layoff.
Atletico slipped to a second loss in three games at city rivals Rayo, with a goal from Radamel Falcao in the fifth minute of stoppage-time serving only to make the scoreline slightly more respectable for Diego Simeone’s men.
Alhassane “Lass” Bangoura fired Rayo ahead in the third minute and Leo Baptistao doubled the home side’s lead just after the half hour.
Athletic Bilbao’s woes deepened when they were thrashed 4-0 at the San Mames by RCD Espanyol, resurgent since coach Javier Aguirre took charge at the end of November last year.
Real Sociedad, the only team to beat Barca this season, moved up to seventh thanks to a 2-1 win at Real Zaragoza, who played most of the match with 10 men following the 22nd-minute dismissal of Hector Litri.