Soccer

Villa's injury-time winner caps Barcelona's comeback

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Associated Press
9/29/2012 7:30:33 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- David Villa scored in injury time after Cesc Fabregas netted a brace to give Barcelona a dramatic 3-2 comeback win against 10-man Sevilla on Saturday, equaling the Spanish pacesetter's best league start ever with six straight wins.

For 89 minutes, Sevilla looked set to repeat its feat from two weeks ago when it edged out Madrid with a similar defensive effort and counterattacking style.

Piotr Trochowski, who netted the winner against Madrid, opened for Sevilla in the 26th minute, and Alvaro Negredo doubled the host's advantage three minutes after halftime after a miscue by Barcelona's defence.

Five minutes later Fabregas scored from long range to start Barcelona's rebound, but Sevilla held firm until midfielder Gary Medel was shown a direct red for head-butting Fabregas in the 72nd.

Barcelona pressed its advantage and Fabregas took Lionel Messi's pass inside the area and toed his shot by goalkeeper Andres Palop before the defence had time to close, levelling the score one minute from time.

Messi, frustrated early on in his attempts to score, then teed up Villa's winner three minutes into added time. The late substitute took Messi's pass, used one touch to open space and fired home to claim the win.

"We were never comfortable during the game, but when things got complicated we demonstrated our character," Fabregas said.

Barcelona's victory gave it an 11-point lead over Madrid before it hosts Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. The two powerhouses are set to meet next Sunday at Camp Nou after their games midweek in the Champions League.

Also on Saturday, Malaga rose into second place after its 4-0 rout of 10-man Real Betis. Valencia beat Zaragoza 2-0 for a much-needed second win, and Real Sociedad downed 10-man Athletic Bilbao 2-0.

Barcelona's perfect start comes in coach Tito Vilanova's first season after taking over from Pep Guardiola.

After three of its four previous six-for-six starts-- the last of which came under Guardiola in 2009 -- Barcelona finished the season by winning the league title.

Barcelona's initial push included hints of what was due to come with Messi and Fabregas providing constant threats up front. But Michel Gonzalez's team soaked up the pressure and went ahead through Trochowski.

The Poland midfielder collected Medel's rebound off Javier Mascherano's foot and drove a hard strike under Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

"My players played a great game in front of a great rival," said Michel, who was sent off late for protesting. "My team knew how to take the game to our rivals and lasted almost half an hour a man down."

After halftime, Sevilla was perfectly poised to pounce on Sergio Busquet's erred pass in his own half. Medel intercepted and played it forward for Negredo, who rode defender Alex Song before floating an exquisite chip shot over Valdes.

Moments after Alexis Sanchez's volley was cleared off the goalline by backtracking Sevilla defender Alberto Botia, Fabregas struck for Barcelona when he scooped up a deflected pass at the top of the area and rocketed a strike into the lower left corner of the net.

"Once again, (Fabregas) played at an excellent level," said Vilanova. "He was really driven tonight. The first goal reflects that. He ran a lot and I hope we recovers well for the Champions League."

After Sevilla was left with 10 men Vilanova sent on Villa in the 79th.

The closest Messi came to scoring was a free kick that Palop pushed off the crossbar. But Messi, whose playmaking is often overshadowed by his scoring feats, created the two late goals for Fabregas and Villa to shock the packed Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Villa has scored three goals in six appearance since returning from a broken leg that sidelined him for the second half of last season.

"It is very good for Villa to score. It had been a long time since he had played as our striker," said Vilanova. "A few months ago it would have been unthinkable that he would be this well by now."

It was Sevilla's first loss of the season and broke a run of not conceding a goal for three consecutive matches.

Also on Sunday, it's: Granada vs. Celta Vigo; Valladolid vs. Rayo Vallecano; Osasuna vs. Levante; and Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid.

Mallorca visits Getafe on Monday.

David Villa (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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