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Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012

Messi scores 90th goal of year in Barcelona win

AP

BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi scored his 22nd double of 2012 to reach 90 goals as Barcelona beat closest rival Atletico Madrid 4-1 on Sunday, opening up a nine-point lead and sitting 13 in front of Real Madrid in the Spanish League.

News photo
All together now: Lionel Messi celebrates with teammates after scoring in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid. AFP-JIJI

It was Barcelona's league-record 15th victory in 16 rounds and came just after floundering Madrid had conceded in the final minutes to draw 2-2 at home with the Catalan club's crosstown rival Espanyol.

"This league is ours to lose," said Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

Atletico striker Radamel Falcao was brilliant early and opened the scoring in the 31st minute. But Adriano sparked Barcelona's resurgence five minutes later with an unstoppable long-range strike, and Sergio Busquets made it 2-1 before halftime.

Messi put the result beyond doubt in the 57th and had the final word in the 88th minute to prolong his incredible year.

"Messi is the best player in the world," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. "We brought out our best weapons, but Barcelona is playing at a different level. You can't do anything against their determination. This league is boring."

The game at the Nou Camp had been billed as a showdown between Messi and Falcao, the league's top two scorers. And it didn't disappoint as both stars scored exquisite goals in addition to Adriano's screamer.

Messi now has 25 goals in the league this season. Falcao is next with 17.

Real appeared set to record its seventh straight home win in the league after Cristiano Ronaldo scored to cancel out Sergio Garcia's opener and set up Fabio Coentrao to put Madrid up after halftime.

But Espanyol substitute Juan Albin scored from a poorly defended corner for a share of the points two minutes from time.

Madrid has already dropped 15 points, one more than it let slip in all of last season.

"Cristiano had a good game, his teammates did not," said Mourinho. "The league is practically impossible. (13 points) are too many at this stage of the season. I have never been in a situation like this, dropping so many points and with a team so far from its objectives."

Spurs climb into top four

AP

LONDON — Tottenham climbed back into the top four in the Premier League on Sunday, breaking Swansea's stubborn resistance through Jan Vertonghen's late goal in a 1-0 win.

However, West Bromwich Albion missed a chance to move into the Champions League positions by drawing 0-0 at home to West Ham.

"For us, it's important to break out from the pack and join the top two," Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said.

The Tottenham-Swansea match ended in controversy, however, with members of both benches spilling onto the pitch after visiting striker Michu was left prone on the ground after landing heavily following an aerial challenge with Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

While Michu was on the pitch, and being attended by a number of concerned players, play was allowed to continue by the match officials. That disgusted Swansea, particularly defender Chico Flores and manager Michael Laudrup, and sparked confrontations on the pitch.

"When I saw it I thought, 'Oh hell, he is unconscious, you can't fake a reaction like that,' " Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said. "Still they let the game go on — it is such a poor decision and dangerous as well."



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