La Liga - Messi double sends Barca top

Sat, 13 Nov 22:55:00 2010

Barcelona moved to the top of La Liga with a 3-1 win over Villarreal at the Camp Nou.

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David Villa capped off a dominant early period for the champions with a goal after 22 minutes, before Nilmar levelled for the visitors moments after Barca had a second goal controversially disallowed.

Lionel Messi then netted twice in the second half to seal the victory.

Barca leapt two points above Real Madrid, who can reclaim their lead with a win at Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Andres Iniesta picked out Spain striker Villa, who cut in from the left, skipped over Carlos Marchena's sliding challenge and slotted the ball coolly past goalkeeper Diego Lopez for his fourth goal in three league matches.

Three minutes later, Barca thought they were two goals to the good when Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez both beat the Villarreal offside trap. Messi drew Diego Lopez off his line before knocking the ball across to Pedro, who tapped into the unguarded net.

However, the linesman's flag was already up against Messi, despite replays showing that both he and Pedro were clearly onside when the Argentine forward broke through.

To add to the consternation at the Nou Camp, Villarreal equalised immediately. The lively Nilmar surged past Carles Puyol and dinked a finish past Victor Valdes and in off the far post.

That goal buoyed the Yellow Submarine, who saw Santi Cazorla's blocked by Eric Abidal - in for the suspended Gerard Pique - after Giuseppe Rossi had chipped a ball over the defence.

Messi sent a free-kick just over the upright in the closing stages of the half, but it was all square at the break.

Barcelona resumed their dominance of possession in the second half, and Messi put his side back in front just before the hour mark after he won a free-kick. The set piece was taken quickly. Xavi played it across to the Argentine, who exchanged two one-twos with Pedro before dinking an exquisite chip over Diego Lopez from a tight angle.

Brazilian full-back Maxwell was fortunate to escape with only a booking after bringing Borja Valero right on the edge of the area, but Cazorla had his free-kick charged down.

Messi then wrapped up the result with his 10th league goal of the season from nine appearances when Pedro's strike was deflected into his path and he beat the keeper with a toe-poke.

That Villarreal are deservedly in third place, but were still outclassed, highlights the growing gap between Barca and Real Madrid and the rest of the division.

The two sides meet in the first Clasico of the season at the Nou Camp on November 29.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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