Messi scored and dished out two assists against Malaga (photo: Reuters)
Rampant unbeaten leaders Barcelona ended the first half of the La Liga season with a record 55 of a possible 57 points when Lionel Messi scored one goal and had a hand in two more in a 3-1 win at Malaga on Sunday.
An 18th victory in 19 games for Tito Vilanova's side in an entertaining match at the Rosaleda restored their 11-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who earlier secured a 10th win in 10 home matches this term with a 2-0 success against Real Zaragoza.
Barca's win also extended their lead over arch rivals Real Madrid to 18 points after the champions, mired in third, were held to a 0-0 draw at bottom side Osasuna on Saturday.
Malaga have the meanest defence in the league but a howler by Ignacio Camacho gifted Barca their opener in the 27th minute.
Messi intercepted the midfielder's wayward back pass and after leaving Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero sprawling on the floor stroked the ball into an empty net.
It was the World Player of the Year's 28th league goal of the campaign and the ninth straight game he has scored, a personal record and one short of the La Liga mark last achieved in the 1996-97 season by former Barca striker Ronaldo.
Messi sent Fabregas clear to double the visitors' lead five minutes after the break and then laid the ball into space for substitute Thiago Alcantara to add an 82nd-minute third.
Diego Buonanotte, another substitute, curled in a free kick for Malaga a minute from time but it was far too late for the Andalusians, who slip to fifth behind Real Betis.
Barca's points haul for the first half of the season is a record for Spain's top flight and they set another La Liga best by scoring for the 37th match in a row.
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