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Messi scores four, Real Madrid keep lead in Primera Liga

(Xinhua)

09:17, February 20, 2012

MADRID, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid maintain their 10 point lead over FC Barcelona in the 23rd round of games in Spain's BBVA Primera Liga on Sunday.

Real Madrid cruised to a comfortable 4-0 win at home to relegation haunted Racing Santander, while a Leo Messi scored four goals to see Barca home to a 5-1 victory at home to third placed Valencia.

Madrid never looked in danger to Racing and opened the scoring with a Cristiano Ronaldo header after just 6 minutes. Racing were reduced to 10 men with 50 minutes to go after Jonathan Cisma was given a harsh second yellow card for handball and Karim Benzema doubled Madrid's lead with the last kick of the first half.

The second half was dull affair, enlivened only by a cameo performance from Angel De Maria, who added a third with an excellent curling shot, and Benzema, who make it 4-0 in the closing minutes.

If Madrid maintained their lead, there was only one candidate for the player of the week as Leo Messi scored the first four of his side's goals in Barca's 5-1 home win against Valencia.

Barcelona meanwhile suffered the shock of conceding an early goal to Pablo Piatti, but then produced one of their best displays of the season with Messi and Cesc Fabrigas in outstanding form

Messi scored twice in the first half to give Barca the lead and had it not been for the woodwork and a fine shot-stopping keeper from Valencia keeper, Diego Alves, the winning margin would have been greater.

Messi completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining and scored his fourth goal of the game with five minutes remaining.

Xavi Hernandez, who returned after a muscle injury, rounded off the scoring in injury time.

The most entertaining game of the weekend saw Rayo Vallecano win 5-3 away to Levante. Levante had kicked off in fourth place, but were undone by a fine display from Rayo, for whom Diego Costa continued his scoring run with two more goals.

Yong Rayo winger "Lass" also scored twice as his side move into contention for a place in Europe, while Levante slip down to seventh in the table.

Real Sociedad scored an early goal against Granada through Mikel Gonzalez, but were then well beaten 4-1 by Granada.

Ignacio Lopez equalized a minute after the opening goal and Real Sociedad fell apart after Ion Illaramendi was sent off just before halftime.

Francisco Jara and Ikechuwku Uche rounded the scoring off in the second half with Uche scoring twice.

Michel Gonzalez enjoyed a 2-0 win against Osasuna on his home debut as Sevilla coach thanks to goals from Gary Medel and Pitor Trochovski, while Getafe and Espanyol drew 1-1. Alvaro Vazquez opened the scoring for Espanyol, but Miki levelled from the penalty spot to assure the points were shared, although Espanyol move up to fourth on goal difference.

Athletic Bilbao survived a first half battering at home to Malaga to win 3-0 in San Mames. Athletic looked tired following their European trip to Moscow on Thursday and Malaga should have led easily by halftime.

However, the visitors wasted a host of chances and Athletic won the game with 3 second half goals in three minutes from Fernando Amorebieta, Mikel San Jose and Gaizka Toquero.

Athletic move fifth, leapfrogging Atletico Madrid, who could only draw 1-1 away to Sporting Gijon on Javier Clemente's debut as home coach. Atletico took the lead from an own goal, but Sebasitan Eguren equalized before the break.

Villarreal's recent revival came to an abrupt halt with a 4-0 defeat in Mallorca with Victor Castano scoring twice for the home side.

The round of games ends on Monday when bottom of the table Zaragoza entertain Betis.

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