Barcelona bounce back to winning ways thanks to Messi double

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The Independent Online

Barcelona continued their ominous march towards a second successive Primera Liga title with a 3-0 victory over an outclassed and outnumbered Real Mallorca. Barca may have seen their 18-match winning run come to an end in the Copa del Rey in midweek against Real Zaragoza but they were always in control of this match, even if it needed the dismissal of Mallorca defender Eduardo Tuzzio and two late goals from Leo Messi for them to finally put the game to bed.

Leading by Ludovic Giuly's first-half strike, Barca were being frustrated in their search for a second goal by a determined Mallorca outfit who refused to give their visitors any time or space. But Messi's late double enabled Frank Rijkaard's men to move 12 points clear at the top of the table. Goals from Luis Fabiano and former Tottenham striker Fredi Kanoute handed Sevilla a 2-0 win against fellow Champions League hopefuls Villarreal.

Valencia are second after hitting back to salvage a 2-2 draw from their home clash with Zaragoza. The visitors took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Sergio Garcia beat Santiago Canizares in a one-on-one and it was 2-0 in the 63rd minute, as Garcia turned provider for substitute Henrique Ewerthon. But, following the dismissal of Zaragoza's David Generolo, substitute Patrick Kluivert dragged Los Che back into the contest with a superb goal, before Pablo Aimar's header restored parity.

Real Madrid's recent resurgence continued with a 2-1 win at Celta Vigo. Robinho put the visitors ahead only for Matias Lequi to equalise with a stooping header. Cicinho netted the winner after 56 minutes - his first goal for the club. Osasuna's miserable run since Christmas shows no sign of abating with Real Betis leaving Pamplona with a well-deserved three points, winning 2-0. Alaves were the other struggling side to make their move on Sunday, thrashing Real Sociedad 4-1 to move off the foot of the table. Malaga now prop up the rest following a 3-1 defeat at Espanyol.

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