MADRID: Lionel Messi notched up his 35th league goal of the season as an understrength Barcelona strolled to a crushing 6-1 home win against Getafe that put them 12 points clear at the top of La Liga yesterday.
Alexis Sanchez and David Villa made the most of a rare place in the starting lineup with goals either side of Messi’s strike and Andres Iniesta, Cristian Tello and Gerard Pique were also on the scoresheet as Barca racked up a 20th victory in 23 matches to move on to 62 points.
Atletico Madrid have 50 points in second place ahead of their game at Rayo Vallecano, four ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, who thrashed Sevilla 4-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday. “We are not going to repeat all the praise we have showered on him (Messi),” Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said in an interview with Spanish TV broadcaster Canal Plus.
“Alexis and Villa gave us a lot of speed and created spaces and showed they are also capable of putting the ball away,” the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper added.
“Some of the players who don’t feature so often were very impressive.” Barca’s interim coach Jordi Roura, standing in for Tito Vilanova who is recovering from throat surgery, rested several key players for Getafe’s visit to the Nou Camp, including Spain trio Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.
Unusually, Barca had been handed the midday kickoff slot but the unfamiliar starting time failed to dampen the players’ hunger for victory in front of more than 85,000 fans thronging the giant arena and enjoying the sunshine.
Alexis struck in the sixth-minute, Messi made it 2-0 seven minutes later and Villa put the game well beyond Getafe, who are 12th on 29 points, with a third just before the hour.
As Getafe started to wilt, Messi surged forward and laid the ball off for substitute Tello to curl in a fourth 11 minutes from time before a mistake from Jordi Alba let in Alvaro Vazquez to pull a goal back for the visitors in the 83rd minute.
Iniesta, who caused Getafe constant problems with his pace and guile, picked up a loose ball and fired in from close range in the 90th and Pique rounded off the party in the second minute of added time with a tap-in from Thiago Alcantara’s unselfish layoff.