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Sunday, December 16, 2012
Messi nets two more to put Barca 9 clear

Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi scored twice for his eighth straight start and reached 90 goals for the calendar year, leading Barcelona over second-place Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Spanish league Sunday night and opening a 13-point lead over defending champion Real Madrid.

"This league is ours to lose," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.

Atletico striker Radamel Falcao was brilliant early and opened the scoring in the 31st minute. But Adriano sparked Barcelona's resurgence five minutes later with an unstoppable long-range strike, and Sergio Busquets made it 2-1 before halftime.

"Messi is the best player in the world," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. "We brought out our best weapons, but Barcelona is playing at a different level. You can't do anything against their determination. This league is boring."

The game at Camp Nou stadium had been billed as a showdown between Messi and Falcao, the league's top two scorers. And it didn't disappoint as both stars took exquisite goals in addition to Adriano's screamer.

Messi now has 25 goals in the league this season. Falcao is next with 17.

Atletico showed more fight and created more chances in the first half hour than it had in 90 minutes in its painful loss at Madrid two rounds beforehand.

Falcao ran rampant and had come close twice before deservedly breaking through when Diego Costa stole the ball from Messi and played Falcao clear to float a delicate lob over goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

But Adriano snapped Barcelona out of its doldrums with a vicious left-footed strike from outside the area that curled off the underside of the crossbar for his fifth goal this season.

"Adriano gave us a boost and we dominated the rest of the way," said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova.

The game swung in Barcelona's favor, with Busquets scoring when the ball fell to him from a corner in first-half added time.

Messi's first goal was like so many he has scored in his stellar career. He took Alexis Sanchez's pass, went by Juanfran Torres with a burst of speed to place the ball on his left foot before unleashing a low shot just inside the left upright.

The Argentina forward finished the scoring in the 88th when he stole Diego Godin's attempt at a back-heeled pass inside his own area and knocked it in for his 14th double of the season. He has netted two goals in each of his past eight starts.

Messi passed German great Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old milestone of 85 goals in one year last weekend.




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