Messi's 61st goal leads Barcelona past Getafe 4-0
MADRID (AP) -- Lionel Messi scored his 61st goal of the season to help Barcelona beat Getafe 4-0 Tuesday and provisionally trim Real Madrid's Spanish league lead to a single point.
Alexis Sanchez scored in each half while Pedro Rodriguez also netted as the three-time defending champions earned its 10th straight league win to increase the pressure on Madrid, which can restore its four-point lead by beating Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Messi took his league-best tally to 39 goals, leaving him one shy of matching Cristiano Ronaldo's record 40 in a season. With Barcelona having at least nine games left to play this season, he has a realistic shot at reaching 70 in all competitions.
"He's capable of getting there, but I don't know if he will,'' Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "He scored a great goal that allowed us to play with calm.''
Sanchez curled home a 13th-minute opener at the Camp Nou before Messi added another dazzling strike to his resume against Getafe, a team that has been the victim of some of his most memorable goals - including a solo run in 2007 often compared to countryman Diego Maradona's goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.
This time, Messi ran on to Andres Iniesta's subtle backheel pass and sent a rising shot into the top corner in the 44th minute.
Messi's goal capped a first half dominated by the hosts, who looked in danger of letting their good play go to waste as they failed to convert a number of opportunities.
Iniesta was also involved in the opener as he looped a pass inside toward Messi, who chested it down onto the foot of Sanchez. The Chile striker cut inside to find space before curling a shot out of Miguel Angel Moya's reach.
Sanchez saw Moya tip a similar chance around the post three minutes later, while Cata Diaz cleared Xavi Hernandez's chip off the goal line a minute later and Messi headed the clearance over.
Although the European champion was without injured defenders Gerard Pique and Daniel Alves, it still held Getafe - which beat the Catalans in Madrid earlier this year - without a single shot on goal. Eric Abidal underwent his liver transplant surgery during the game and the 76,041 spectators paid tribute after 22 minutes to match the France defender's number.
"We wanted to dedicate (the win) to Abidal and his cousin, Gerard (who donated the liver),'' Guardiola said.
Barcelona cruised through much of the second half before a pair of goals inside three minutes put the game away. Sanchez headed home Cuenca's cross into the area in the 73rd before Pedro sent Messi's cross over Moya in the 75th with his back to goal.
Messi nearly matched Ronaldo's record in the final moments after a superb dribble through the defense only to loft a shot across the face of goal. Ronaldo has 37 goals this season.
"We did the job we had to,'' Guardiola said.
Atletico will be desperate to end a 13-year winless run against Madrid after sixth-place Osasuna beat nine-man Espanyol 2-0 to move four points clear into the final Europa League spot.
Raul Garcia scored in the 53rd, two minutes before Philippe Coutinho was sent off for a second booking, and then added his second in the 69th. Espanyol lost Juan Forlin to a red card in the 82nd.
Also Tuesday, Ruben Castro's 13th goal of the season canceled out Carlos Vela's 56th-minute strike as Real Betis rallied for a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.
In other 32nd round matchups this week, it's: Sporting Gijon vs. Levante; Granada vs. Athletic Bilbao; Valencia vs. Rayo Vallecano; Villarreal vs. Malaga; Racing Santander vs. Mallorca; and Sevilla vs. Zaragoza.
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