Lionel Messi extended his scoring run to 18 straight Spanish soccer league matches in a 3-1 win against Rayo Vallecano that maintained Barcelona’s 13-point lead over Real Madrid at the top.
World player of the year Messi scored in the 40th and 57 minutes last night to lift his season tally to 42 goals in La Liga after David Villa had given Barcelona the lead at its Camp Nou stadium. Messi is the first player in Europe’s top four leagues to score at least 42 goals in two successive seasons, according to Infostrada Sports.
“You live calmer when you know you have a Leo Messi,” Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura told his team’s website. “We’re in a good position to win the league.”
Barca has 74 points, with defending champion Real on 61 and Atletico Madrid on 60 after a 2-0 win at Osasuna yesterday. Real twice came from behind to beat Real Mallorca 5-2 two days ago.
Mario Balotelli scored both goals, one of them from the penalty spot, as AC Milan beat Palermo 2-0 in Italy yesterday. Goran Pandev got the winner for Napoli in a 3-2 victory against Atalanta, while Fiorentina defeated Genoa by the same score.
Goals by Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio gave Serie A leader Juventus a 2-0 win at Bologna two days ago. Juve has 65 points, followed by Napoli with 56 and AC Milan with 54.
Yesterday’s game between Sampdoria and Inter Milan was postponed because of the risk of snow and flash floods.
Paris Saint-Germain stretched its lead atop France’s Ligue 1 to five points even after blowing a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Saint-Etienne last night. Early first-half goals from Javier Pastore and Zlatan Ibrahimovic put PSG ahead before Saint-Etienne fought back with an own-goal from Alex and a Francois Clerc strike to preserve its unbeaten start to 2013.
David Beckham made his first Ligue 1 start since joining PSG on a five-month contract at the end of January. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder was returning to the ground where he was red-carded when playing for England against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
Second-place Lyon lost 4-1 at Bastia and Marseille was held to a 0-0 draw by Ajaccio in other weekend games. PSG has 58 points, Lyon 53 and Marseille 51 with nine matches left.
Bayern Munich maintained a 20-point lead in Germany’s Bundesliga after a 2-1 victory at Bayer Leverkusen two days ago and needs two more wins from its remaining eight games to secure a record-extending 22nd title. Second-place Borussia Dortmund, the defending champion, routed Freiburg 5-1.
“We can be happy with a 20-point cushion, but we must not lose our focus due to this big advantage,” Bayern forward Arjen Robben told his team’s website. “We’ve got to keep our concentration in the coming weeks.”
Ajax stayed one point clear atop the Dutch league with 57 points after a 3-2 win at AZ Alkmaar yesterday. PSV Eindhoven had a 2-0 win over RKC Waalwijk, Feyenoord defeated Utrecht 2-1, and Vitesse Arnhem won 4-0 at Den Haag among other weekend games. PSV and Feyenoord both have 56 points with Vitesse on 54.
To contact the reporter on this story: Peter-Joseph Hegarty in London at email@example.com.