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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Monday, November 19, 2012
Sports

LFP

Barca race to best ever start

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Lionel Messi hit a brace as Barcelona beat Zaragoza 3-1 to make the best ever start to a Liga season but Real Madrid kept in touch with a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

There were doubts that Tito Vilanova could take on the mantle left by Pep Guardiola this summer but he has proved himself in emphatic fashion with the team notching up eleven wins and a draw so far that leaves them six points clear at the top and eight ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Messi opened the scoring but while Francisco Montanes brought Zaragoza level, Alex Song restored the advantage before the break. Messi got his second and his 17th of the season to ensure a victory and another record with Barca's start beating those of Real Madrid in the 1968-69 and the 1991-92 seasons.

"It was an excellent performance from the team and Leo is a key player but he doesn't do it on his own and has great players around him," said Vilanova afterwards.

Madrid have an uphill task to now catch Barca but the ease with which they took apart Athletic suggests they are on the right track.

A deflected shot from Karim Benzema off Jon Aurtenetxe put them ahead after 12 minutes and then Sergio Ramos and Benzema again gave them a commanding lead. Ibai Gomez reduced the arrears before the break but Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira made it a heavy defeat for sorry Athletic.

Barca had their preferred centre-half pairing of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol available and Song was chosen ahead of Javier Mascherano to play the defensive midfield role.

Jordi Alba crossed for Messi in the first minute and though he shot just wide the Argentine did put Barca ahead after 15 minutes with Alba again the supplier.

Messi was given plenty of room in the heart of the defence to pick his spot and slotted past keeper Roberto Jimenez.

The home side failed to clear a corner with full-back Martin Montoya only finding the edge of the area where Montanes fired the ball back in and it found the back of the net after taking a slight deflection off Puyol.

With the ease that Barca were opening up Zaragoza there was little alarm among the Catalan faithful and five minutes later it was their idol Messi who set up the second goal. He pulled the ball back from the deadball line for Song to score a rare goal.

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