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Saturday, November 17, 2012
Lionel Messi scores twice to lead Barca news services

Lionel Messi scored twice and set up a first Barcelona goal for Alex Song as the Catalan giants powered on at the top of La Liga with a 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza on Saturday.

Messi took his season tally for Barcelona to 22 in all competitions with strikes in 16th and 60th minutes while he also turned provider in the 28th minute to help summer signing Song open his account for the club.

Song's goal put Barca back in front after Zaragoza had drawn level through Paco Montanes.

Barca went into the match having earned 31 points from a possible 33 this season and always looked likely to pick up another three Saturday thanks to Messi.

The Argentina international, for whom Saturday's match fell almost exactly nine years since he made his Barca debut as a 16-year-old, only just failed to hit the target with an early effort but he made no mistake just after the quarter-hour.

He fed the ball out to Jordi Alba on the left before moving to the edge of the box, where he picked up a pinpoint return pass from the Spain left-back before calmly rolling his shot past Roberto Jimenez in the visiting goal.

Barca has not been so solid in defense this season as it has in recent campaigns though and its backline was breached again in the 24th minute as Zaragoza surprised the hosts by drawing level.

Alba's attempted clearance from a corner went straight to Montanes on the edge of the box and he took a touch before lashing in a shot that took a deflection as it whistled past Victor Valdes.

That was the 15th league goal Barca has conceded this season -- Barcelona only let in 29 in the whole of last season, 21 the previous campaign and 24 in 2009-10 -- but Zaragoza was level for just four minutes before Messi worked his magic again.

He burst his way through to the goalline before pulling the ball back to the penalty spot where the unmarked Song side-footed home for his first goal since his switch from Arsenal.

Messi himself then wrapped up the win with a precise finish on the hour mark.

He collected a cut back from Martin Montoya on the edge of the box before curling a shot in off the base of the far post with the scrambling Roberto just unable to get there.

Andres Iniesta came close to adding a fourth in the 80th minute with an effort that hit the post, but Barca was already well on its way to victory.

Espanyol slipped to the bottom of the table after a controversial 2-1 defeat at Valencia that saw it end the game with nine men.

Jonathan Viera gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes but Samuele Longo equalized on the half-hour mark and the visitors looked like clinging on for a welcome point.

However, Hector Moreno was judged to have handled in the area three minutes from time and after Moreno and Sergio Garcia were sent off for protesting to the referee, Roberto Soldado drilled home the penalty.

Malaga's winless streak in La Liga stretched to four games as it failed to find a way through a resolute Osasuna at El Sadar, but the visitors were grateful for the point after Willy Caballero was forced into two fine late saves in a 0-0 draw.

Osasuna remains bottom but after taking four points from the past six available are now just one point away from safety.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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