Barca extend lead at the top

Football Spanish League

Rampant unbeaten leaders Barcelona ended the first half of the La Liga season with a record 55 of a possible 57 points when Lionel Messi scored one goal and had a hand in two more in a 3-1 win at Malaga on Sunday.

An 18th victory in 19 games for Tito Vilanova's side in an entertaining match at the Rosaleda restored their 11-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who earlier secured a 10th win in 10 home matches with a 2-0 success against Real Zaragoza. Barca's win also extended their advantage over arch-rivals Real Madrid to 18 points after the stuttering champions, mired in third, were held to a 0-0 draw at bottom side Osasuna on Saturday.

Barca have overhauled the previous record of 52 points they set two years ago under Pep Guardiola, scoring 64 goals and conceding 20, and are well on the way to breaking Real's record of 100 points for a season set last term.

The only points they have dropped were in a 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid in October  Barca also set a new La Liga best by scoring for the 37th match in a row.

Malaga, who play at Barca in a King's Cup quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday, have the meanest defence in the league but a howler by Ignacio Camacho gifted the visitors their opener in the 27th minute.  Messi intercepted the midfielder's wayward back pass and after leaving Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero sprawling on the turf stroked the ball into an empty net.

Messi sent Fabregas clear to double the visitors' lead five minutes after the break and then laid the ball into space for substitute Thiago Alcantara to add an 82nd-minute third.

Diego Buonanotte, another substitute, curled in a free-kick for Malaga a minute from time but it was far too late for the Andalusians, who slip to fifth behind Real Betis.
Resurgent Atletico go into the second half of the season with a perfect home record after Tiago and Radamel Falcao scored to help see off Zaragoza.

They stretched their advantage over third-placed city rivals Real Madrid to seven points. Deportivo La Coruna held on to earn a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad that put them back above Osasuna.

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