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Barcelona's Lionel Messi leaps to meet the ball ahead of Rayo Vallecano's Mikel Labaka.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi leaps to meet the ball ahead of Rayo Vallecano's Mikel Labaka.

European football round-up: Messi makes it 18-in-a-row as Barcelona extend La Liga lead

Francesco Totti became Serie A's second highest goalscorer of all time with a goal against Parma, while Lionel Messi and David Villa combined to potent effect against Rayo Vallecano.

SPAIN

Lionel Messi and David Villa combined to devastating effect to see off Rayo Vallecano 3-1 and help Barcelona restore their 13-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Rayo could not handle the partnership which accounted for all three goals - Villa opening the scoring before Messi netted twice to extend his stunning goal scoring record to 18 successive league matches.

The visitors remain in mid-table but can feel satisfied with an enterprising display which saw them create numerous chances before Raul Tamudo grabbed a late consolation.

Atletico Madrid bounced back from last week's home defeat to Real Sociedad - a result which ended their 100 per cent league record at the Vicente Calderón this season - with a 2-0 win at Osasuna.

Diego Costa netted both goals, scoring in the 35th and 48th minutes, as Atletico remained a point behind second-placed Real Madrid.

Malaga, meanwhile, dropped out of the top four for the first time in seven weeks after surprisingly losing 2-0 home to Espanyol.

Second-half goals by Diego Colotto and Sergio Garcia gave the visitors a smash-and-grab victory at La Rosaleda as Malaga, who have progressed through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, saw their winless run in La Liga stretch to four games.

Sevilla kept their faint hopes of achieving a Europa League place alive with a 4-0 victory over Real Zaragoza, the goals coming from Coke (two), Jose Antonio Reyes and Alvaro Negredo, while Granada drew 1-1 with Levante.

Granada took a 32nd-minute lead through Guilherme Siqueira's penalty but Robert Acquafresca equalised for Levante just five minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute.

 

PORTUGAL

Benfica opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Portuguese Liga after they beat Guimaraes and second-placed Porto could only manage a draw at Maritimo.

Jorge Jesus' men were far too strong for mid-table Guimaraes whose hopes dwindled following the 61st-minute dismissal of Valerio Kanu for two yellow cards.

By then the Lisbon giants were already one-up through an Oscar Cardozo penalty and they made it 2-0 shortly after Kanu's departure through Ezequiel Garay.

Eduardo Salvio and Lima added late goals to give the score line a more emphatic look.

Porto could not match their title-rivals' display in Madeira against Maritimo.

James Rodriguez put the visitors ahead after 34 minutes but Suk Hyun-jun equalised four minutes later.

Estoril moved up to fifth after goals from Lica and Carlos Eduardo handed them a 2-0 win over Academica while Rio Ave slipped a place after going down to Filipe Goncalves' solitary strike for Moreirense.

The day's other game, between rock-bottom Beira Mar and Nacional, finished 2-2.

Ruben Ribeiro and Abel Camara twice put Beira Mar in front only for Mateus to net a double for the visitors, the second leveller coming after Nacional had been reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Moreno.

 

FRANCE

Paris Saint Germain blew the chance to go seven points clear at the top of Ligue 1 as they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at St Etienne.

Despite racing ahead through Javier Pastore's strike and a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty, PSG had to settle for a point as St Etienne's spirited response brought an Alex own-goal and a Francois Clerc equaliser.

St Etienne remain unbeaten this year but will be disappointed not to have claimed the three points that would have taken them level with Marseille in third.

Nice also missed the chance to pull level with OM as the surprise European hopefuls slipped to a 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Nancy thanks to Djamel Bakar's first-half strike.

Nancy remain well adrift of safety, five points behind fourth-bottom Brest, but they have four wins in their last eight league outings.

In the day's other game, Toulouse and Bordeaux played out a dour goalless draw in the derby de la Garonne.

 

SCOTLAND

St Mirren claimed the first silverware of the season with a dramatic 3-2 win over Hearts in the Scottish League Cup final.

Ryan Stevenson had opened the scoring for Hearts after just 10 minutes, but Esmael Goncalves levelled from close range eight minutes before half time against the run of play.

And just seconds after the break, veteran forward Steven Thompson turned in a Paul Dummett cross to make it 2-1. Connor Newton looked to have secured the trophy for St Mirren when he converted a one-two with Goncalves, but Stevenson made it 3-2 with just six minutes remaining to ensure a nervy closing spell for the Paisley side before they could lift the cup.

In the day's other game, 10-man Dundee were denied their first derby win since November 2004 after a late goal from Michael Gardyne secured a 1-1 draw for Dundee United at Tannadice.

 

GERMANY

Eintracht Frankfurt missed the chance to pull clear of Bundesliga rivals Schalke in the race for a Champions League spot next season after slumping to a 2-1 defeat at home to Stuttgart.

With Schalke losing 3-0 at Nurnberg on Saturday, Frankfurt could have moved three points clear of the men from Gelsenkirchen in the battle for fourth place had they beaten Stuttgart this afternoon.

But the poor recent form which had seen Frankfurt earn just three points from their previous five matches struck again.

Stefan Aigner gave Frankfurt the lead after 17 minutes - their first goal in six weeks - but Vedad Ibisevic equalised with a penalty in the 48th minute and Georg Niedermeier gave Stuttgart the victory with his header 19 minutes from time.

Frankfurt remain fourth on goal difference, ahead of Schalke.

Borussia Monchengladbach climbed two places to seventh, just one point behind Frankfurt and Schalke, thanks to a 1-0 home win over Hannover.

The only goal came in the 36th minute from Luuk De Jong, who clipped a close-range finish beyond Ron-Robert Zieler after taking on a smart short-range pass from Patrick Herrmann.

 

ITALY

Francesco Totti has became the second-highest Serie A goalscorer of all time as Roma climbed into fifth place with a 2-0 victory over Parma.

His penalty against Genoa two weeks ago brought the 36-year-old level with Gunnar Nordahl on 225 goals and, after missing the mark at Udinese last week, Totti followed up Erik Lamela's opener to reach a long-awaited personal milestone.

And with city rivals Lazio losing at Torino after Inter Milan's game at Sampdoria was postponed due to bad weather, the Giallorossi used the win to close within four points of Fiorentina as an unlikely push for Champions League qualification gathers pace.

Lazio continue to sink down the league and their 1-0 reverse against Torino at a snowy Stadio Olimpico, decided by a Jonathas goal after Michael Ciani was sent off, sees Vladimir Petkovic's men reach seventh place after a sixth defeat in eight games.

Edinson Cavani scored twice as Napoli edged a nervy 3-2 victory over Atalanta to hold on to second place, but AC Milan remain hot on their heels.

Napoli had failed to win in five games and risked surrendering second spot to Milan, who beat Palermo 2-0, but Cavani ended his own six-week goal drought with an early penalty.

Paolo Cannavaro's own-goal did not help Napoli's cause, though, and Cavani was relieved to have doubled up just before German Denis levelled once again.

Goran Pandev then pounced in the final 10 minutes to keep the southerners within nine points of leaders Juventus.

At the San Siro a brace from Mario Balotelli saw AC Milan shrug off a miserable week with a 2-0 win against relegation-threatened Palermo.

Milan did not appear to be too disheartened by their midweek Champions League thrashing at Barcelona as Balotelli fired his sixth goal for his new club from the penalty spot.

Balotelli's close-range second then guaranteed an 11th league game without defeat for Massimiliano Allegri's men, who remain just two points behind Napoli.

Defeat for Palermo leaves the Sicilians joint last alongside Pescara, who lost 2-0 at home to Chievo.

Two late goals edged Pescara closer to the drop and boosted Chievo's hopes of staying in the top flight, Adrian Stoian scoring the first three minutes from time and Cyril Thereau wrapping up the win in stoppage time.

Fiorentina needed a Mattia Cassani own-goal to fend off a double fightback from 10-man Genoa and claim a 3-2 victory at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Alberto Aquilani fired La Viola ahead midway through the second half and Juan Cuadrado restored the lead shortly after Daniele Portanova levelled on the hour.

There was a brief period of deadlock following Luca Antonelli's unopposed equaliser but Andrea Bertolacci's dismissal gave Fiorentina time and space to force Cassani into a critical error with time running out.

Elsewhere, a second-half onslaught was not enough for Siena to take all three points against Cagliari, who came closest to breaking the deadlock in a goalless draw in Tuscany.

 

HOLLAND

Ajax went back to the top of the Eredivisie with a 3-2 win at AZ Alkmaar.

Two goals in three second-half minutes from Siem De Jong and Daley Blind put the Amsterdammers in control, but Markus Henriksen pulled one back two minutes after the break.

De Jong got his second just before the hour mark and, even though Jozy Altidore reduced the deficit to one again in the 74th minute, Ajax held on.

The win took them a point above PSV Eindhoven and kept them a point ahead of Feyenoord, who won 2-1 at home to FC Utrecht.

Graziano Pelle put the hosts in front after 32 minutes, only for Cedric van der Gun to level in the 59th minute.

But Darryl Janmaat restored Feyenoord's lead two minutes later to keep them firmly in the title hunt.

FC Twente won 3-0 at 10-man FC Groningen.

Leroy Fer opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time and Groningen's hopes took another blow when goalkeeper Marco Bizot was sent off in the 78th minute.

And the visitors took full advantage, with goals from Dusan Tadic (80) and Luc Castaignos (87) wrapping up the win.

Elsewhere, Willem II slipped closer to relegation as the bottom side were thumped 4-0 at NAC Breda.

Goals from Kees Luyckx, Mats Seuntjens, Elson Hooi and Danny Verbeek left the visitors five points adrift.

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