La Liga

Messi pushes Barca closer to Madrid

Andres Iniesta (C) of FC Barcelona celebrates with Lionel Messi (L)
Andres Iniesta celebrates with Lionel Messi after Barcelona's win over Getafe.
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LA LIGA FIXTURES

 
Tuesday, April 10
Osasuna 2-0 Espanyol
Sociedad 1-1 Real Betis
Barcelona 4-0 Getafe
Wednesday, April 11
Valencia 4-1 R Vallecano
Real Sporting 3-2 Levante
Granada 2-2 A Bilbao
A. Madrid 1-4 R Madrid
More: La Liga| Standings|Stats

Lionel Messi scored his 61st goal of the season to help Barcelona beat Getafe 4-0 Tuesday and provisionally trim Real Madrid's Spanish league lead to a single point.

Alexis Sanchez curled home a brilliant opener in the 13th minute and the prolific Lionel Messi's 39th goal in La Liga this term - his 61st in all competitions - had the hosts two up at the interval.

Two superb headers in the final quarter - from Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez - sealed Barca's 10th straight win which ensured the Catalan side kept up the pressure on Real Madrid, who visit city rivals Atletico tomorrow night.

Pep Guardiola's champions had looked virtually out of the title race when they trailed Jose Mourinho's side by 10 points last month, but have gradually clawed back the deficit by eking out victories while the capital club dropped points against Malaga, Villarreal and Valencia.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Isaac Cuenca returned to Guardiola's starting line-up after missing Saturday's 4-1 win at Real Zaragoza, with Dani Alves injured, Cesc Fabregas suspended and Thiago on the bench.

Getafe, one of only two teams to have beaten Barca this season, were on the back foot from the outset, with goalkeeper Miguel Moya called into action twice before the deadlock was broken.

He was in the right place to prevent a Miku own goal after the Getafe striker misdirected a header from Messi's dangerous centre. Moya then got down to push away an Iniesta low drive which looked to have been heading wide.

Barca's patience was rewarded in the 13th minute when they opened the scoring in typically stylish fashion.

Iniesta lofted a short pass for Messi, who chested the ball into the path of Sanchez. The Chilean advanced to the edge of the area, making light of the attentions of Getafe defender Alexis, and curled a fine shot past Moya from the edge of the box.

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Sanchez burst through again three minutes later and unselfishly set up Pedro Rodriguez, whose low shot was pushed around the post by the diving Moya.

Moments later Xavi thought he had doubled the hosts' advantage when he dinked a neat shot over the advancing Moya, but it was adjudged not to have crossed the line before being cleared by Cata Diaz.

Messi was for once off target in the 25th minute. He took a Sergio Busquets pass on his thigh but dragged his left-footed effort just wide.

Getafe started to find their feet as the half wore on, but Barca remained the team looking the more likely to add to the scoreline.

A sliding Sanchez prodded narrowly wide from a Cuenca cross in the 32nd minute, and a minute before half-time the hosts deservedly went two up.

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Messi played a slick one-two with Iniesta and then smashed a clinical left-footed shot into the top-left corner.

Getafe went close to pulling a goal back 10 minutes after the restart when Juan Rodriguez's shot skimmed the top of Victor Valdes' bar, but normal service was soon resumed as Barca produced two sublime headers in three minutes to put the result beyond doubt.

First Sanchez leapt highest to meet Cuenca's cross from the right with a powerful downward header which was past Moya before he knew it in the 73rd minute, and then Pedro flicked a superb backward header looping into the Getafe net two minutes later.

The one-way traffic continued in the final quarter-hour.

Cuenca volleyed over after Carles Puyol had surged forward and set up the chance, then Messi latched onto Xavi's pass and got his right-footed shot away from the angle only to be denied by Moya.

Messi then somehow weaved his way to the touchline and chipped over a cross towards Sanchez as he searched for his hat-trick. The Getafe defence managed to scramble away the danger, but the damage had already been done.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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