Lionel Messi got four goals as Barcelona defeated Valencia 5-1 to stay 10 points behind La Liga leader Real Madrid. Sulley Muntari scored in his debut as AC Milan beat Cesena 3-1 to keep its one-point lead in Italy.
Messi, who was named soccer’s best player for the third straight year last month, scored two goals in each half at the Camp Nou last night after Valencia had taken the lead. Xavi Hernandez completed the rout in second-half stoppage time.
Messi’s haul lifted him to 27 league goals this season, one fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored Real Madrid’s opener two days ago in a 4-0 victory against Racing Santander. Real has 61 points through 23 games as it seeks a first championship since 2008.
Muntari, on loan from Inter Milan, got AC Milan’s opener in Cesena yesterday as the Rossoneri stayed a point ahead of Juventus before their Feb. 25 meeting at the San Siro. Urby Emanuelson and Robinho also scored before Daniel Pudil replied for the home team.
Juventus, which has 49 points having played one match fewer than Milan, beat Catania 3-1 two days ago on goals from Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Quagliarella. Udinese is third after a 0-0 home draw against Cagliari, while Lazio slipped down one spot to fourth after its 5-1 loss at Palermo.
Inter Milan’s winless run was extended to six matches with a 3-0 home loss to Bologna on Feb. 17. Inter drops to seventh following wins for Roma and Napoli, who beat Parma and Fiorentina respectively.
Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier drew 2-2 in the French capital as the top two in Ligue 1 met last night. John Utaka’s header put visiting Montpellier 2-1 up with nine minutes left before an 88th-minute tap-in from substitute Guillaume Hoarau preserved PSG’s one-point lead atop the standings.
Third-place Lille beat Lorient 1-0 two days ago and is nine points further back.
Bayern Munich lost ground in Germany’s Bundesliga after failing to win for the second time in three matches and drops to third place behind Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Bayern was held to a 0-0 draw at Freiburg two days ago, Moenchengladbach beat Kaiserslautern 2-1 and leader Borussia Dortmund defeated Hertha Berlin 1-0. Yesterday, Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored two goals for fourth-place Schalke in a 4-0 win against Wolfsburg. Dortmund has 49 points, Moenchengladbach 46 and Bayern 45.
PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar are tied on 45 points atop the Dutch Eredivisie after both 3-0 lost yesterday, at Groningen and Utrecht. Heerenveen beat NAC Breda 1-0 and is two points back.
WEEKEND RESULTS =============== Italy: Fiorentina 0-3 Napoli, Inter Milan 0-3 Bologna, Juventus 3-1 Catania, Lecce 4-1 Siena, Cesena 1-3 AC Milan, Genoa 0-1 Chievo, Novara 0-0 Atalanta, Roma 1-0 Parma, Palermo 5-1 Lazio, Udinese 0-0 Cagliari. Spain: Getafe 1-1 Espanyol, Real Madrid 4-0 Racing Santander, Sevilla 2-0 Osasuna, Granada 4-1 Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Malaga, Real Mallorca v Villarreal, Sporting Gijon 1-1 Atletico Madrid, Levante 3-5 Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona 5-1 Valencia. Today: Real Zaragoza vs Real Betis. Germany: Hoffenheim 1-1 Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 Augsburg, Nurnberg 2-1 Cologne, Hamburg 1-3 Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin 0-1 Borussia Dortmund, Kaiserslautern 1-2 B. Moenchengladbach, Freiburg 0-0 Bayern Munich, Schalke 4-0 Wolfsburg, Hannover 4-2 Stuttgart. France: AC Ajaccio 0-0 Brest, Caen 2-2 Evian, Dijon 3-0 Nice, Lorient 0-1 Lille, Nancy 0-3 Toulouse, Sochaux 0-0 Auxerre, Marseille 1-1 Valenciennes, Bordeaux 1-0 Lyon, St Etienne 4-0 Rennes, Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Montpellier. Netherlands: Heerenveen 1-0 NAC Breda, Feyenoord 1-1 RKC Waalwijk, Den Haag 1-1 Excelsior, De Graafschap 1-4 VVV, Heracles 2-1 Roda JC, Groningen 3-0 PSV Eindhoven, Ajax 4-1 NEC Nijmegen, FC Utrecht 3-0 AZ Alkmaar, Vitesse Arnhem 1-4 FC Twente.