MADRID - Lionel Messi scored two late
goals on Saturday as leaders Barcelona won 3-0 away to Hercules,
their 15th consecutive victory matching the La Liga record set
by Real Madrid in the 1960/61 season.
Promoted Hercules stunned the champions with a 2-0 win at
the Nou Camp back in September, the only defeat Barca have
suffered in the league this season, and they made life tough for
the visitors until Pedro struck just before the break.
World player of the year Messi scored twice in as many
minutes at the end after the hosts were reduced to 10 men
following a second yellow card for Francisco Farinos in the
"Scoring just before the break helped us a lot but 1-0 is
always a dangerous scoreline, any lost ball can put you in
danger. The red card for Farinos helped us a lot," Barca coach
Pep Guardiola told reporters.
It could have been a different story at the Rico Perez if
David Trezeguet had been able to put away a good chance in the
20th minute, as Hercules unsettled the visiting defence.
Barca were knocked out of their stride until Xavi picked out
Pedro in the area and the Spain forward thumped a shot inside
the near post, scoring for a sixth consecutive league game.
They took the sting out of the encounter after the break but
were unable to settle the match until Farinos was sent off and
Messi, who had had a poor game by his standards, skipped through
to score in the 87th.
Two minutes later, Dani Alves crossed for the Argentine to
tap in Barca's third goal, taking his league tally for the
season to 21 behind Real's Cristiano Ronaldo on 22.
In the late game, Deportivo La Coruna's Laure grabbed a
hotly-disputed late equaliser in a 3-3 draw at home to 10-man
The linesman's flag was up when the full-back broke into the
area to score but the referee overruled him prompting heated and
lengthy complaints from the visitors. Television replays showed
Laure to be onside when he received the ball.
Lassad had put Depor ahead with a spectacular strike early
in the first half and, after Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop had
been sent off for handball outside the area in the 57th minute,
he doubled the lead just past the hour.
Sevilla, who have a King's Cup semi-final second leg at Real
Madrid on Wednesday, stormed back to take the lead with a double
from Alvaro Negredo either side of Julien Escude's opportunist
effort, but were denied the three points in the 88th.
Earlier, struggling Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza notched
their first wins on the road this season to climb away from the
foot of the standings.
Sporting's steady improvement was confirmed with a third
consecutive victory, beating Real Mallorca 4-0.
They climbed to 12th with 22 points from 21 games ahead of
Hercules, Deportivo and 15th-placed Zaragoza on goal difference.
Javier Aguirre's Zaragoza also claimed their third
consecutive victory, Florent Sinama Pongolle completing a 2-1
comeback win at Malaga who are now bottom.
Levante, who started the weekend at the foot of the table,
won 2-0 at home to Getafe while Real Sociedad sank Almeria 2-0.
Levante now have 18 points with Almeria and Malaga on 17.
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