Messi the difference as Barcelona see off Villarreal

MADRID (AFP) – Barcelona forward Leo Messi scored a brace as the champions beat Villarreal 3-1 in an exhibition of attacking football from both sides on Saturday.

For the first time Messi has now scored in seven consecutive games and Barcelona go provisionally top of the table with Real Madrid playing on Sunday.

Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi shoots and scores his second goal of the match against Villarreal during a Spanish League football match at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. AFP

The Catalan side's attack has been in fine form with eight goals in their last two games but they faced a Villarreal just two points behind and unbeaten in nine games.

Villarreal arrived promising to take the game to Barca and there were plenty of chances in an action packed game.

Early on Messi was denied by a good save from Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez while Nilmar also had a strike blocked by Barca stopper Victor Valdes.

David Villa opened the scoring, slipping the ball over the desperate dive of defender Carlos Marchena before finding the corner, but Villarreal soon hit back through Brazilian striker Nilmar.

Messi was wrongly flagged offside when through on goal but in the second half restored Barca's advantage, chipping the ball over the keeper from a tight angle and then he secured the win with his second seven minutes from the end.

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan ended his goal drought scoring a brace in his side's 3-0 win over Osasuna.

The Golden Ball winner at this year's World Cup has started the season slowly but with pressure growing on him after eight games without a goal he finally found the back of the net.

Forlan broke the deadlock from close range pouncing on a loose ball after Osasuna keeper Ricardo Lopez saved from Aguero.

Atletico doubled their lead through an Aguero header before half time and then with Osasuna reduced to ten men following Nacho Monreal's second yellow card Forlan struck again.

"We played a strong game against a side that until you score will make it difficult for you. The difference was the quality of our players in attack. Every time I see Forlan he is better and when he plays alongside Kun (Aguero) we are an infinitely better team," said the Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

An early Fernando Llorente strike gave Athletic Bilbao a 1-0 victory in a battling performance against Almeria with the team holding on after being reduced to nine men.

Athletic defender Mikel San Jose had a penalty saved by keeper Diego Alves after Juan Ortiz fouled Carlos Gurpegi but minutes later they did take the lead when Llorente knocked home a Javi Martinez cross.

Koikili Lertxundi was dismissed for a second yellow card and then substitute Xavier Castillo was given a straight red for a professional foul on Henok Goitom but still Almeria couldn't find a way through.

Real Madrid have made their third best ever start to a league season under new coach Jose Mourinho and travel to Sporting Gijon with eight wins and two draws so far.

Mourinho will see the game from the stands after being banished from the dugout for shouting abuse at the referee.

Fourth-placed Espanyol are perhaps the surprise team so far this season and take on Racing Santander on Sunday as Valencia travel to Getafe, while Sevilla face a Zaragoza side who have moved off the bottom after their first win of the season.

Hercules host Real Sociedad in a battle of promoted teams with the visitors in form and looking for their fourth successive win.

Former-Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini takes charge of his first match with Malaga in a relegation battle against Levante. Back-to-back wins have taken Deportivo la Coruna out of the bottom three and they now meet Mallorca.

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