Larsson and Messi strike as Barca near record

SPANISH league leaders Barcelona stretched their advantage at the top of the table to 10 points with a comfortable 2-0 win over bottom club Alaves last night.

Second half goals from Henrik Larsson and Lionel Messi helped the Catalan club to their 13th successive win in the league. The record run of their bitter rivals Real Madrid, who put together 15 back-to-back victories in the 1960-61 season, is now in sight with Real Mallorca and then Real Zaragoza the next opponents in line for Barca.

Larsson, starting only his second league game this season, proved that he can still find the net despite the lack of match practice, scoring from close range less than two minutes into the second half. Messi then put the match beyond the reach of the Basques eight minutes from the end.

Two goals from David Villa gave Valencia a 2-0 win at struggling Real Betis yesterday, which was enough to put them in second place on goal difference after Osasuna lost 2-1 at Villarreal.

Villa opened the scoring for the 2003-04 champions after 35 minutes, finding his way between two Betis defenders before hitting a left foot shot from just inside the edge of the area.

The Spanish international striker then got his 13th goal of the season 12 minutes from time, showing he is equally adept with either foot by using his right to chip the ball past Betis goalkeeper Toni Doblas.

Osasuna slip back a place but only have themselves to blame after conceding two penalties in quick succession late in the game at Villarreal.

Raul Garcia’s right foot shot from more than 20 metres, after a pass from David Lopez, put the Pamplona-based side ahead after 28 minutes but Villarreal turned up the pressure.

The home side got their reward when Javier Flano fouled Antonio Guayre after 70 minutes and Villarreal’s Juan Roman Riquelme stepped up to convert the spot kick.

Riquelme got his ninth of the season six minutes later after Raul Garcia clattered into Villarreal’s inspirational Argentine playmaker. Villarreal’s first goals in four games mean that they move up to fifth, one place ahead of Deportivo La Coruna, who threw away a two-goal lead to end up being held 2-2 by Real Mallorca.

Getafe equalled the best result of their short career in the top flight of Spanish football with a 5-0 thrashing of Espanyol.

Real Madrid recovered from the shock of going behind to beat Cadiz 3-1 on Saturday, a result which keeps them in fourth place. Cadiz’s Alexandre Medina got the opening goal after 55 minutes before Roberto Carlos levelled for Real 13 minutes later with a free kick from more than 20 metres before Beckham followed his example from a dead-ball situation shortly afterwards. All of Real’s goals came from outside the box as Robinho completed Real’s comeback eight minutes from time with a stunning lob.

In Italy, defender Fabio Cannavaro scored twice as Serie A leaders Juventus came from a goal down to win 2-1 at home to Empoli yesterday.

Sergio Almiro’s 25-yard drive gave Empoli an early lead in Turin before Cannavaro headed two goals from set-pieces. The title-holders could have won by more, but two late efforts from Del Piero struck the crossbar.

Juventus’ 18th victory in their 21 matches played restored their eight-point lead at the top - an advantage that had been cut to five on Saturday when second-placed Inter thrashed Palermo 3-0 at the San Siro.

Brazilian midfielder Kaka was twice on target for AC Milan in their 3-0 win at Siena which left them 10 points off the pace in third place.

Roma boosted their hopes of playing Champions League football next season with a 4-1 win at Udinese. Brazilian winger Amantino Mancini scored twice - one from the penalty spot - as Roma chalked up their fifth consecutive league win.

Lecce dropped to the bottom following their 2-0 defeat at Ascoli, while Treviso came within seconds of an away win at Livorno only to be denied by a late equaliser by Fabio Galante.

Parma gave themselves hope of surviving the drop with a 2-1 win against Chievo, their first home victory of the season while Reggina defeated Sampdoria 2-1 in Calabria.

In Holland, Feyenoord missed the chance to cut PSV Eindhoven’s lead at the top of the table to one point after they were held to a goalless draw at home by Roda.

PSV stretched their advantage at the summit with a 2-0 home win over RKC on Friday night and then saw both of their nearest challengers drop points this weekend - AZ Alkmaar drawing 1-1 at home to Groningen on Saturday and Feyenoord against Roda 24 hours later.

Those results mean PSV now boast a three-point lead over both Feyenoord and AZ at the top of the standings.

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