Messi grabs two more as Atletico are taught lesson

Barcelona strengthened their grip on top spot of La Liga with an excellent 4-1 win against Atletico Madrid in a pulsating game between the country’s top two.

Atletico started the game impressively with Radamel Falcao coming close twice before scoring an excellent chipped effort past Victor Valdes following the pass from Diego Costa.

But Barcelona came back fighting and found themselves in the lead by the break after a superb curling effort from Adriano and a close-range shot from Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona stamped their authority on the game in the second half with Lionel Messi’s excellent strike making it three before he doubled his tally in the closing moments with a dink over Thibaut Courtois.

Juan Albin’s late equaliser struck another blow to Real Madrid’s hopes of retaining La Liga as they could only draw 2-2 with Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu last night.

Sergio Garcia gave the visitors the lead on the half-hour but Madrid appeared to be heading for victory as goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao either side of half-time put them in front. However, after missing a host of chances to put the Catalans away, Jose Mourinho’s men were punished two minutes from time as Albin turned the ball past Iker Casillas from close range.

The point extends Madrid’s unbeaten record at home this season to 12 game. Mourinho said last night: “I’ve never seen a situation where there’s been so many points lost and that a team of mine was so far from its objective.

“The league is almost impossible, but we need to continue, Real Madrid demand the maximum dignity. In my coaching career I’ve always, or almost always, achieved my objectives and this is new for me.”

In Italy, Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A yesterday with a comfortable 3-0 victory over 10-man Atalanta.

Mirko Vucinic put the home team in front in the second minute with Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio adding further goals within the first half hour.

Thomas Manfredini was then shown a red card for Atalanta, who were fortunate to avoid any further damage as Juve continued to attack but could not add to their first-half salvo.

Lazio closed in on second-placed Inter Milan thanks to a late Miroslav Klose strike at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday which earned Vladimir Petkovic’s side a 1-0 victory.

Inter hit the post twice in a game which came to life in the second half, but the Germany decided matters in the 82nd minute.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund will head into the winter break third in the Bundesliga — 12 points behind Bayern Munich — following a 3-1 win at lowly Hoffenheim.

Mario Gotze’s 26th-minute opener was cancelled out by Sven Schipplock (35) but second-half goals from Kevin Grosskreutz (58) and Robert Lewandowski (66) secured the points.

Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen kept up their pursuit of Munich, reducing the deficit to nine points with a 3-0 win over Hamburg.

Schalke coach Huub Stevens was sacked yesterday following his side’s 3-1 defeat to Freiburg on Saturday. U17 coach Jens Keller takes over at least until the end of the season.


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