Late win in Pamplona gives Barcelona 12-point lead
Madrid, Jan 12 (DPA) Lionel Messi gave Barcelona a dramatic 3-2 win away to Osasuna with a classy goal just six minutes from time, continuing an impressive Barca run in the Spanish football league, the Liga.
With the score at 2-2 in the 84th minute Sunday, Messi received the ball out on the right, cut inside and let fly with a powerful left-foot drive that evaded Osasuna keeper Roberto.
The late win keeps Barca 12 points clear of Real Madrid and Sevilla, with 47 points from 18 games. Real won 3-0 away to troubled Mallorca earlier Sunday.
'We needed to win tonight in order to keep 12 points ahead of the other teams,' said Barca captain Carles Puyol.
Puyol and company dominated from start to finish in misty Pamplona, against a team at the bottom of the table and short on confidence.
Messi hit the Osasuna post after just 10 minutes, then set up Samuel Eto'o to make it 1-0 just before half-time.
The hosts slowly came out of their defensive shell, and Miguel Flano equalized in the 63rd minute by heading in a Javier Portillo corner.
Ten minutes later, Osasuna took the lead against the run of play when veteran Walter Pandiani turned in a centre from Juanfran.
In the 81st minute, however, Euro 2008 star Xavi made it 2-2 after good work down the right by Daniel Alves. And three minutes later Messi won the game for Barca with his perfect long drive - in the process helping his chances of being voted FIFA World Player.
Earlier Sunday, Real Madrid scored their first away win in three months, 3-0 against troubled Mallorca.
The whites went ahead in Palma after just four minutes, when Gonzalo Higuain set up Arjen Robben on a quick break and the in-form Dutchman made it 1-0 with his trusty left foot.
In the 14th minute, with Mallorca still reeling, Raul celebrated his 500th game for Real by making it 2-0 with a clever backheel, after good work down the right by Higuain.
Real have tightened up in defence since Juande Ramos took over from Bernd Schuster, and Mallorca never looked capable of beating Iker Casillas.
In the 67th minute Sergio Ramos, depsite being offside, made it 3- 0 with a fierce drive after being set up by Fernando Gago.
'It is important for us to win away from home at last,' said Ramos. 'Now we have two games at home to look forward to.'
Ramos conceded that it would be 'difficult' for Real to catch up with Barca, 'but not impossible.'
Real and Sevilla are one point ahead of fourth-placed Valencia, who played out a heart-stopping 3-3 draw against Villarreal Saturday.
The defeat against Real leaves Mallorca second from bottom - and coach Gregorio Manzano in big trouble.
Another coach in jeopardy is Javier Aguirre, after Atletico Madrid's 3-2 meltdown at home to Athletic Bilbao Sunday.
The game finished with the Estadio Calderon baying for Aguirre's blood. His team finished with 10 men, Maniche having earned himself a red card for a thoughtless foul.
Antonio Lopez had given Atletico an early lead, only for Koikili Lertxundi to level for Bilbao just before half-time.
In the 51st minute, with the Atletico defence looking shaky, debutant Alvaro Dominguez made it 2-1 with a nervous own goal. Spain striker Fernando Llorente made it 3-1 for Bilbao, Diego Forlan pulled back a useless goal for Atletico in injury time.
This painful defeat leaves Atletico in fifth place, level on 30 points with Villarreal and Deportivo Coruna.
In Sunday's other early games, Sporting Gijon beat Valladolid 2-1 and Malaga scored a late 2-1 win away to Betis.
A 1-1 draw in Santander keeps Recreativo Huelva just above the danger zone, the same as Numancia after a 2-0 home win over Getafe.
Later Sunday, troubled Espanyol battled out a last-gasp 2-2 draw at home to lively Almeria, for whom Kalu Uche had scored twice.
Espanyol needed an injury-time leveller from Nicolas Pareja to claim a point. They are still third from bottom, with just Mallorca and Osasuna behind them.
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