Messi magic moves Barça closer to title

Getafe 0 Barcelona 1
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The Independent Football

Lionel Messi scored his 20th league goal in 24 starts this season as Barcelona prepared for the five games in 14 days that will decide their season with a 12th away win of the campaign.

The Argentine's goal against Getafe on Saturday was all that separated the two sides, but in terms of quality they were worlds apart. Barça enjoyed 78 per cent of first-half possession and the Getafe coach, Victor Muñoz, said afterwards: "They are so good they appear to be playing with one extra player."

Barcelona had never won 12 on the road in a season. And who knows, maybe the 31 times they have struck woodwork – Samuel Eto'o hit a post here – and the fact that when they left the field eight of the 11 players were products of the club's youth system are also records. But their manager, Josep Guardiola, cares not. "The only records that count are the trophies won at the end of the season," he said.

Barça play Spain's third-placed side Seville on Wednesday, thenValencia at the weekend. Then there are the Champions League games against Chelsea, the El Clasico against Real Madrid in between. "We're happy to be playing these big games," Guardiola said.

Messi (below), who two years ago to the day ran Maradona-style from the half-way line to score against Getafe, punished them on 19 minutes. Xavi crossed from the right and Messi wriggled around Cata Diaz to make space for a shot that beat the goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

The Serbian pulled off six saves in the first 45 minutes, most notably from a spectacular overhead kick from Gerard Pique. The referee, Javier Alvarez, also helped to keep the score down, overlooking two penalties when Mario fouled first Eto'o and then Messi, and also ruled out a second-half goal from Messi for a non-existent offside.

The Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, making his 300th appearance for the side, kept a sixth consecutive clean sheet – he is now just two away from equalling the record set by Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina's father Miguel in 1973.

Immediately after Barça's win, Real Madrid faced Recreativo de Huelva and coach Juande Ramos recorded his seventh straight away win thanks to a goal from Marcelo. His team have now taken 46 points from the last 48, but are still six points behind Barcelona with seven games remaining.

*Jose Mourinho's Internazionale took a massive step towards the Serie A title on Saturday when they secured a 1-1 draw at Juventus. The result leaves Juve 10 points adrift of Inter in the Italian league with six games left. Mario Balotelli put Mourinho's men in front in the 64th minute, but Zdenek Grygera found an equaliser in the dying seconds.