x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Leo Messi: Not as easy as it looks for Barcelona

Barcelona blitzed Real Sociedad 5-0 Sunday to remain Spanish leader thanks to a ninth straight victory, after Real Madrid had applied some pressure earlier with a 3-1 win over Zaragoza.

Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Real Sociedad.
Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Real Sociedad.

Lionel Messi, the Barcelona forward, said the Catalan side are making things easier than they look after the 5-0 win over Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou.

Barca have now won their last two Primera Division matches at home by that scoreline, having impressively dispatched fierce rivals Real Madrid two weeks ago, and have dropped only five points in the league all season.

The Catalans also recently thrashed Almeria 8-0 away from home and beat Osasuna 3-0 in Pamplona last weekend, despite undergoing a stressful journey to reach the game on time following an air controller's strike.

"It looks easy, but it isn't," the Argentina forward told Canal+ after the game. "It was hard for us, especially in the first half, when they closed up at the back."

Nevertheless, it took Barca just eight minutes to go ahead, with David Villa opening the scoring with a simple finish after Messi himself had freed Pedro on the right.

Andres Iniesta added a second after 32 minutes to make it 2-0 at the break, before Messi added a second half brace to take his tally in the league to 17 in just 15 games.

The 23-year-old also hit the post late on before substitute Bojan Krkic made it 5-0 a minute from time.

Earlier Real Madrid had applied some pressure earlier with a 3-1 win over Zaragoza.

Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria scored for Madrid who stay two points behind.

Zaragoza had chances early at La Romareda stadium but Madrid took control with Ozil's 15th-minute goal as the Germany playmaker capped a quick counter-attack by tucking a shot from the right under Leo Franco.

Franco was left flat-footed in the 44th as Ronaldo dipped his free kick over the defensive wall and into the empty side of goal for the Portugal international's league-leading 17th goal.

Di Maria made it 3-0 three minutes after the break by shooting over Franco as the Zaragoza goalkeeper raced out to try and cut off the Argentina forward after Xabi Alonso had played him clear into the area.

Ricardo Carvalho was booked for halting Nicolas Bertolo's run inside the area and Gabriel Fernandez stepped up to beat Iker Casillas - playing his 400th league game - from the penalty spot for Zaragoza's goal in the 54th.

Zaragoza coach Javier Aguirre remains without a victory after four games.

Earlier, Fernando Llorente and David Lopez scored second-half goals as Athletic Bilbao rallied to beat Espanyol 2-1 and deny them the chance to move into third place.

Espanyol striker Pablo Osvaldo capped a slick build-up in the 33rd minute by firing past the Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz to put the visitors on course for a first win at the San Mames stadium since 2001.

Lopez's 56th-minute entrance spurred the hosts on as Llorente made up for a wasteful miss by powerfully heading past Carlos Kameni for the 73rd-minute equaliser.

Lopez then curled in a perfectly taken free kick for the 78th-minute winner and the Basques' fifth straight home win.

Espanyol stay on 28 points. two behind the third-place Villarreal, while Athletic joined Sociedad in eighth with 22 points.

Also, David Trezeguet led Hercules' own second-half rally as the French striker scored the first of four goals over a 15-minute span in a 4-1 win over Malaga.

Sebastian Fernandez put Malaga ahead after 12 minutes at the Jose Rico Perez stadium before Trezeguet coolly backheeled home Nelson Valdez's centring pass in the 66th to begin the rally.

Royston Drenthe scored a penalty three minutes later before Abraham Paz and Kiko Femenia capped a Costa del Sol derby win.

Also, Sporting Gijon rallied to draw against Levante 1-1 and Oscar Serrano returned from a seven-month knee injury lay-off to score two minutes into injury time as Racing Santander won 1-0 at Mallorca.