Spanish La Liga Roundup, Jan. 8
Ballon d'Or finalists Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta scored to lead Barcelona to its 12th straight Spanish league win in a 4-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Messi played David Villa clear into the right side of the area before the Spain striker squeezed a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia to open for the Spanish leader.
Messi's 51st-minute goal was a clear reminder of why the Argentina forward was in the running for a second straight Ballon d'Or as the world's best player. Messi curled a left-footed shot around the outside of the defensive wall and into the top left corner for his 18th goal of the season.
But Iniesta also showed why he was up for the prize in the 80th as the Spain midfielder evaded his marker to unleash a low shot through a crowd that dipped past Aranzubia.
One minute later, Pedro Rodriguez scored his ninth of the season after running on to Messi's through ball to chip Aranzubia.
Xavi Hernandez - the other finalist for FIFA's top individual player prize to be awarded on Monday in Zurich - watched his Barcelona teammates from the sidelines as an unused substitute.
Barcelona put the pressure on Real Madrid to beat third-place Villarreal on Sunday to keep pace with the Spanish champions, who have won all nine games away from the Camp Nou this season. Barcelona provisionally leads Madrid by five points.
Earlier, Frederic Kanoute scored twice as Sevilla rallied for a 3-2 win at Real Sociedad while Javi Martinez scored in injury-time for Athletic Bilbao to draw 1-1 at Malaga.
At El Riazor Stadium, Barcelona controlled the tempo despite Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Daniel Alves being left on the bench.
Deportivo nearly went ahead in the 21st when Barcelona was unable to clear a troublesome ball, but Adrian Lopez fanned a clear chance in front of goal with only 'keeper Victor Valdez in his way.
Villa took his season tally to 12 goals before seeing a chance in the 34th blocked just before Pedro missed an effort.
Eric Abidal looked to have scored his second goal in as many games after Messi picked out his run to put him through to score in the 38th but the France defender was a step offside for the goal to be waived off.
Ruben Perez - who curled a long shot wide in the 41st - was booked for blatantly tugging Messi down by the back of his shirt after turning it over to the Argentina forward. But Messi made the hosts pay with a perfectly taken shot from outside the area.
Deportivo's disciplined defense kept the Catalan side at bay until Iniesta's and Pedro's late scores, with World Cup hero Iniesta receiving a standing ovation after being substituted in the 83rd. Aranzubia got a hand to Messi's 88th-minute shot to deny him a chance of tying Cristiano Ronaldo's league-leading goal tally.
Sevilla striker Kanoute was well-placed in the 25th minute to smash Luis Fabiano's headed pass into goal, canceling out Diego Rivas' opener for Sociedad from two minutes earlier.
Joseba Llorente caught Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop out of position to give Sociedad a 2-1 lead going into halftime, but Brazil striker Luis Fabiano started the rally in the 63rd by stabbing Alvaro Negredo's trickling shot over the line.
Kanoute received from Negredo two minutes later and sidefooted past Claudio Bravo inside the near post from a tight angle for his eighth of the season.
Sevilla's second straight win allowed it to join Getafe and Athletic in seventh place.
Spain midfielder Martinez snatched a point for Bilbao by leaping high three minutes into extra time to deftly guide Igor Gabilondo's free kick beyond Malga goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo with the back of his head.
Martin Demichelis' Malaga debut after joining on-loan from Bayern Munich looked to have gotten off to a perfect start as the Argentina defender headed home an 81st-minute corner kick to give the hosts the lead.
Malaga, in whose lineup Demichelis was one of four January transfer signings, created better chances throughout but would move only four points clear of the drop zone with the draw.
In other 18th-round games on Sunday, it's: Mallorca vs. Almeria; Osasuna vs. Getafe; Espanyol vs. Zaragoza; Racing Santander vs. Sporting Gijon; and Levante vs. Valencia.
Atletico Madrid plays Hercules on Monday.