Barcelona beats Madrid 2-0 to lead Spanish league

Lionel Messi scored and defending champion Barcelona beat Real

Madrid 2-0 to take a three-point lead in the Spanish league race

with its fourth straight victory in the rivalry.

Messi, coming off a four-goal performance in the Champions

League, put Barcelona ahead after 33 minutes by sending a shot past

goalkeeper Iker Casillas for his 40th goal of the season.

Xavi Hernandez, who set up Messi for the opener, turned

playmaker again in the 56th as he sent Pedro Rodriguez free on

Casillas to curl a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper.

Barcelona won consecutive games at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for

the first time in its history to lead with 80 points and seven

games to play.

“The fact is that we came to the leader’s stadium and won,”

said coach Pep Guardiola, who has led Barcelona to its longest

winning streak against Madrid. “We won a very serious game,

showing a lot of calm.”

Barcelona won 1-0 at the Camp Nou in December.

Messi again outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in a matchup of two of

the best players in the world.

“Barca is superior to Real Madrid, that’s what’s important,”

Messi said after scoring his seventh career goal against Madrid,

while Ronaldo remained scoreless in five meetings. “These are

three important points since we’re leaders again.”

Messi picked himself up from a tackle to gather possession and

feed Xavi, who floated a pass right back to him as he burst into

the area. Messi controlled with his chest to move across and use

his right foot to send the ball between Casillas and defender Raul

Albiol to score.

Messi, who scored four times against Arsenal lead Barcelona to

the Champions League semifinals, leads the league with 27

goals.

Pedro doubled the lead with a well-timed run that came moments

after Ronaldo tested Victor Valdes for the first time. The Portugal

forward failed to penetrate from the left wing throughout and

Madrid never looked capable of coming back after Valdes saved

Rafael Van der Vaart’s 57th-minute chance.

“I feel a mix of everything but mostly frustration and

impotence,” Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini said. “Barca wasn’t

the team we recognized from other games. We had the right to

threaten goal more often.”