Barcelona remains perfect in La Liga
BARCELONA, Spain (AP)
Pedro Rodriguez scored three goals and Victor Valdes saved another penalty in Barcelona's 4-0 win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, keeping the defending Spanish league champions perfect through five rounds.
Pedro scored from a pass by Lionel Messi in the 33rd minute and added two more goals in the 47th and 72nd after Valdes saved his second penalty in four days following his stop in Wednesday's 4-0 over Ajax in the Champions League.
The Spain forward has five goals this season, making him the league's second-leading scorer behind Messi with six.
Cesc Fabregas capped the rout in the 80th with Rayo bravely searching for a consolation goal.
Barcelona provisionally took sole possession of the league lead, which Atletico Madrid could share if it won at Valladolid later.
The entertaining victory gave Barcelona an overnight five-point advantage over Real Madrid before it hosts Getafe on Sunday.
Encouraged by its raucous fans, Rayo set a brutal pace from the start, and Valdes was called into action in the third minute to turn back Alberto Perea's header.
The electric atmosphere at Vallecas Stadium almost cost Barcelona right back Martin Montoya an own goal in the 21st when he misplaced a back pass that Valdes was relieved to watch slip just outside his post.
But Barcelona matched Rayo's intense pressure and a ball stolen by Alex Song led to Barcelona's opener. Messi took the ball, drew in the hosts' defense, and laid off for Pedro arriving down the right side to drive a low shot into the net.
It was then Valdes' turn to shine once again this season, his last with the Catalan club which he seems determined to make his best.
Rayo was poised to level the score in the 35th when Barcelona defender Adriano fouled midfielder Roberto Trashorras in the area, but Valdes stood firm and had little trouble parrying Trashorras' spot kick.
Pedro scored his second goal when he raced in to stab Fabregas' cross home after the former Arsenal midfielder forced Rayo into losing the ball deep in its own half.
Barcelona's Neymar provided constant danger throughout the match and came close to his first goal in league play with a shot off the post in the 66th. The Brazil striker has already made his mark by giving defenses fits and leads the league in fouls received.
As Rayo's players tired while its fans continued to urge them forward, Neymar started and extended a flowing move by squaring for Pedro to tap in his third goal before Fabregas took the fourth.