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Barcelona routs Rayo, retains share of lead with Atletico

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The Canadian Press
2/15/2014 5:00:11 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another to help Barcelona brush aside Rayo Vallecano 6-0 and keep its share of the Spanish league lead on Saturday, while a smoke bomb with tear gas forced an evacuation during Villarreal's 2-0 home loss to Celta Vigo.

Atletico Madrid beat Valladolid 3-0 as Diego Simeone's side and Barcelona opened up a three-point advantage over Real Madrid before it plays at Getafe on Sunday.

Barcelona's big win, which included the scoring return of Neymar after a monthlong injury absence, came three days before it visits Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

While two of the league's top teams thrilled their fans, a device thrown onto the pitch at El Madrigal released noxious smoke, forcing the match to be temporarily interrupted in the 87th minute with Celta winning 1-0 after Fabian Orellana's goal four minutes before.

Fans and players streamed out of the stadium to avoid the irritating effects of the smoke. After a 20-minute delay, the game was restarted and Celta's Manuel "Nolito" Agudo scored from a free kick in the 90th.

Villarreal president Fernando Roig said police were looking for the person who threw the bomb. He said the device released tear gas.

Barcelona punished a visiting Rayo side intent on trying to deploy a similar precision passing attack and was unfortunate to head into halftime only up 2-0 from Adriano's second-minute opener and Messi's lob in the 36th.

The Camp Nou hosts found their finishing touch in the second half, as Messi struck again before assisting Alexis Sanchez, with Pedro Rodriguez and Neymar also adding goals.

Messi's double left him with 228 goals in league play, giving him one more than Alfredo Di Stefano and tying him with Raul Gonzalez as the competition's third all-time leading scorer. The 26-year-old Messi reached the mark in 263 league games, while Raul needed 550. Former Athletic Bilbao star Telmo Zarra holds the record with 251 goals in 277 games in the 1940s-50s.

"Messi will surpass all the records he sets out to break," Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said. "He will lose count. We are in the presence of a kind of player that only comes round every 30 or 40 years."

The Argentina forward appears to have regained his full fitness following a two-month injury layoff, with four goals in his last two games.

Atletico likewise dominated its home match after Raul Garcia scored three minutes in from a set-piece and seconds later passed for Diego Costa to record his 21st league goal, one less than leader Cristiano Ronaldo. Diego Godin scored in the 74th minute of Atletico's placid victory that saw goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and striker David Villa return from injury absences.

Atletico's win ended a run of three straight losses before it visits AC Milan on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Rayo and Valladolid, meanwhile, remained in the relegation zone along with Real Betis.

In Valencia, Levante extended its undefeated streak to six rounds and provisionally rose into seventh place thanks to its stout defence and David Barral's solo effort to beat visiting Almeria 1-0.

Adriano has several long-range goals for Barcelona, and the Brazilian defender struck again from outside the box to get Barcelona going just moments after the whistle.

Rayo's insistence to try and work the ball up the pitch with short passes played into Barcelona's pressure and resulted in a slew of chances for the defending champions.

Cesc Fabregas intercepted an errant pass and spotted Messi completely unmarked to chip Martinez.

Messi found Alexis to beat Martinez in the 53rd and tally his team-leading 15th league goal of the season, and three minutes later Pedro tapped in a short pass from Fabregas, who was played clear by Andres Iniesta's deft back-heeled flick.

Messi took his second goal in the 68th with a left-footed shot just inside the upright, and Neymar capped the rout in the 89th after he came on as a substitute.

The Brazil striker, who had been out since hurting his right ankle on Jan. 16, unleashed a long-range strike that sailed in over Martinez.

Barcelona celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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