Barcelona go 7 points clear after Racing win

AP, Saturday 22 Jan 2011

Barcelona won its 14th straight Spanish league game with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Racing Santander on Saturday

Barcelona beat Racing Santander 3-0

Pedro Rodriguez and Lionel Messi scored in the first half and Andres Iniesta added another after the restart to send the league leaders seven points clear of Real Madrid ahead of its match against Mallorca on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's team showed no signs of its midweek defeat to Betis in the Copa del Rey, which ended its run of 28 games without a loss, and continued its dominating play that led it to the midway point of the season with a record points haul of 55.

Racing did what it could to withstand Barcelona's barrage, but the Catalan side's trademark combination of short, quick passes was too much for the visitors to handle.

Rodriguez opened the scoring in the second minute chesting a lob pass from Messi across the goal line after the Argentina star combined with David Villa and penetrated the area on the left side.

Messi made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 33rd after Villa was fouled in the area by Racing defender Henrique, and Iniesta fired a pass from Rodriguez that took a friendly deflection off a defender before landing in the net to cap the win in the 56th.

Barcelona is just one victory shy of equaling the league record of consecutive wins set by Real Madrid in 1960-61.

Earlier, Luis Fabiano scored a hat trick to help give Sevilla a 4-1 win over Levante.

After Barcelona went ahead on Rodriguez's seventh goal in five games and 11th of the season, Racing striker Markus Rosenberg tested goalkeeper Victor Valdes with a well-taken curling shot.

But the game could have easily turned into a first-half rout if not for the work of Racing goalkeeper Antonio "Tono" Rodriguez, who made back-to-back saves on close-range shots by Messi and Carles Puyol in the 28th and cut off Adriano, starting in place of the injured Dani Alves, moments later.

Messi doubled the lead in the 33rd with his 19th goal in the league and 33rd in all competitions. Messi, who had missed a penalty early this week against Betis, calmly rolled the ball into the right corner as Tono dove the other way.

Racing, however, did not roll over and Valdes made a great save to swat a header by Adrian Gonzalez over the crossbar just before halftime.

Racing continued to play well after the break and Gonzalez saw his long blast just miss three minutes into the second half, but Barcelona took control for good through Iniesta's goal.

The Spain midfielder is having his most prolific scoring season of his career with seven goals in league play, bettering his previous personal best of six in 2006-07.

Racing, which is set to be acquired by Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, has not won in five weeks and stayed in 14th place, four points clear of the drop.

Earlier at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Luis Fabiano displayed his full repertoire of attacking skills, scoring with a header, a penalty and through an excellent dipping strike from outside the area.

The Brazil striker opened the scoring in the 28th minute by heading in a cross from Jesus Navas, and defender Julien Escude doubled Sevilla's advantage with a header of his own in the 39th.

Luis Fabiano added his second from the penalty spot in the 43rd before Levante's Xisco Munoz made it 3-1 early in the second half. But the Brazilian's long blast sealed the victory in the 68th and gave him eight goals for the season.

Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano said the game was an example for his team to follow.

"With our firepower up front, if we defend well we are guaranteed to win," Manzano said.

Sevilla's third victory in four games left it just one point off Europa League positions.

Later, fourth-place Valencia hosted a Malaga side full of winter reinforcements.

Levante has lost five straight and risks falling into last place if Almeria beats Osasuna on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, third-place Villarreal looks to stay undefeated at home in league play against Real Sociedad, Sporting Gijon plays Atletico Madrid, Espanyol visits Getafe, and Zaragoza receives Deportivo La Coruna.

Hercules is at Athletic Bilbao on Monday to close week 20.

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