Messi strikes again as Barca crush Getafe
Lionel Messi extended his league record by scoring for a 13th consecutive round as Barcelona beat Getafe 6-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday, with Andres Iniesta controlling much of the game for the Spanish leaders.
Iniesta set up Alexis Sanchez to open the scoring in the sixth minute. Messi then doubled the advantage from another move started by Iniesta in the 13th with his league-leading 35th goal in 23 games this season.
Forwards David Villa and Cristian Tello, Iniesta and defender Gerard Pique all scored in the second half for the hosts.
Barcelona increased its lead to 12 points over Atletico Madrid after it lost 2-1 at upstart Rayo Vallecano in a Spanish capital derby. Defending champion Real Madrid is 16 points adrift the pacesetters.
"When you play against Barcelona, you are playing against the two best players in the world in Messi and Iniesta," Getafe coach Luis Garcia said. "The difference is abysmal."
Also Sunday, Real Sociedad and Espanyol continued their impressive run of play with wins away from home.
Sociedad has only one defeat in its last 13 games after beating 10-man Real Zaragoza 2-1. Sociedad moved into seventh place thanks to goals by Antoine Griezmann and Imanol Agirretxe.
Espanyol, meanwhile, confirmed its turnaround under new coach Javier Aguirre as it routed Athletic Bilbao 4-0, rising to 13th place and eight points clear of the relegation zone. The Barcelona-based side has only lost once in 10 matches since Aguirre took over.
After relying on the same group of starters in recent matches, Barcelona made several changes following an international week and with the Champions League set to restart this month.
Alexis made his first league start since Dec. 22, while Villa, Alex Song and Adriano also got the go-ahead. Thiago Alcantara replaced playmaker Xavi Hernandez, out for two weeks with a muscle injury in his right leg.
Even though Barcelona's squad featured players who had spent more time on the bench than on the pitch recently, Getafe never had a chance to spring an upset.
Iniesta put on a double exhibition of dribbling and passing, and Messi was his usual brilliant self. Alexis also stood out in his best game of the season. The Chile forward was active as ever but finally recovered the scoring touch that had eluded him all campaign as well as the poise and timing Barcelona's intricate passing attack requires.
"I know the class of player I am and what I am capable of," Alexis said. "I have been creating chances, just not putting them in. Those of us who come off the bench and play fewer minutes know that we have one task when we do play: to play well."
Getafe was lucky to only be losing 2-0 by halftime as Barcelona failed to finish off a series of chances after Alexis and Messi got them rolling.
Iniesta met Alexis' run with a perfectly weighted diagonal pass through the defense which Alexis deftly slipped behind onrushing goalkeeper Jordi Codina for his first goal in league play this season.
Iniesta cued Barcelona's second goal with a lofted pass that Thiago controlled with his chest before generously laying off to Messi, who swept the ball into the net while falling to the turf.
"Our heads were in the game from the start," Iniesta said.
Alexis came close to creating two more goals only to see Messi volley his lob off the post just after the half-hour mark and Thiago's short-range effort was blocked by defender Miguel Torres two minutes before halftime.
Barcelona didn't squander its opportunities after the break.
Iniesta played Jordi Alba wide for the back to thread a pass behind the defense, which Villa sent between Codina's legs for Barcelona's third goal in the 58th.
Substitute Tello netted in the 79th with a strike from the edge of the box after receiving a pass from Messi before Alvaro Vazquez got Getafe's consolation goal in the 83rd.
Iniesta pushed in a rebound of a shot by Messi in the 90th, and Thiago let Pique roll in the sixth two minutes into injury time with Getafe completely undone in defense.
Rayo got the better of Atletico by attacking from the wings and volleying in a pair of crosses in the first half as Alhassane "Lass" Bangoura scored three minutes in and Leo Baptistao added a second in the 32nd. Radamel Falcao scored his 19th league goal for Atletico in stoppage time.
Rayo rose to sixth place and Spain's Europa League positions with its fourth straight win at Vallecas stadium. The loss means Atletico's hopes of catching Barcelona are quickly fading after five away games without a victory.