Barcelona go seven points clear of Real

MADRID, Jan 22, 2011 (AFP) - Champions Barcelona went seven points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish first division on Saturday as goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta sealed a 3-0 home win over Racing Santander.

Barcelona had lost 3-1 to Real Betis in their midweek Kings Cup match - although they reached the semi-finals 6-3 on aggregate - but got off to the perfect start with Spanish winger Pedro netting his 11th league goal after just 90 seconds on Saturday.

Barcelona's midfielder Andres Iniesta (R) vies with Racing Santander's goalkeeper Tono (L) on January 22, 2011. AFP

Barcelona then coasted to their 14th consecutive league win and maintained their flawless away record with a ninth win on the road.

Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid are now under pressure to close the gap back to four points when they host Real Mallorca at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

"Scoring in the second minute helped us settle and this is an important win," said Barcelona striker David Villa.

"We are delighted and it is important for us to be top. Now we have to wait and see if we are lucky and Real Madrid fail to win (against Real Mallorca)."

Barca went ahead after just 90 seconds against Racing with Messi playing a wall pass with Villa before chipping goalwards for Pedro to chest the ball in from close range.

It was a nightmare start for Racing but the visitors almost equalised with Markus Rosenberg forcing a diving save from Victor Valdes on the quarter hour mark.

Villa, Adriano and captain Carles Puyol all missed good chances before Villa won a penalty on 33 minutes by tricking Brazilian defender Henrique, who is on loan at Racing from Barcelona, with some quick footwork.

Messi converted the spot-kick for his 19th league goal of the season as Barca went in 2-0 at the interval.

The hosts scored again on 56 minutes with Spain star Iniesta watching his deflected shot swerve in.

Valencia moved a point above Villarreal into third with a 90th minute winner from Aritz Aduriz clinching a thrilling 4-3 win over nine-man Malaga.

Malaga had Argentine defender Martin Demichelis sent off on 16 minutes for conceding a penalty, which Juan Mata converted, and centre-back Helder Rosario red-carded in the 65th minute for protesting.

Former Real Madrid man Julio Baptista, signed from Roma in the January transfer window, thought he had helped Malaga secure a point when he made it 3-3 with his first goal for the club on 79 minutes, but Aduriz struck in stoppage time to break their hearts.

Villarreal fall to fourth but can reclaim third with victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Brazilian international forward Luis Fabiano scored a hat-trick as Sevilla cruised to a 4-1 home win over Levante to boost their hopes of a top-four finish and bolster confidence ahead of Wednesday's Kings Cup semi-final against Real Madrid.

"We will do everything we can to get a good result to take to Madrid (for the second leg)," said Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano.

"We have to carry on like this and we have to keep up the defensive intensity and defend well because, with the firepower we have, we are sure to be successful."

It capped a fine week for Sevilla, who defeated Villarreal in midweek to reach the semi-finals of the Kings Cup, although they are still ten points off the top four.

Fabiano headed the opener on 27 minutes after a cross from Spanish international winger Jesus Navas, back from injury, before French defender Julien Escude headed in a corner in the 38th minute.

Levante conceded a penalty four minutes later when Javi Venta fouled Fernando Navarro and Fabiano smashed an unstoppable spot-kick into the bottom corner and completed his hat-trick on 67 minutes with a fine strike from just outside the penalty area.

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