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Messi leads the way as Barca tops Zaragoza

Barcelona moved six points clear at the top of La Liga on Saturday after Lionel Messi scored a goal in each half of a 3-1 Barca win against Real Zaragoza at the Camp Nou.

The visitors had won three of their last four games entering the match, and after Messi opened the scoring in the 16th minute, Francisco Montanes equalized in the 24th.

Barca defender Jordi Alba failed to properly clear the ball from inside his own penalty area, allowing Montanes to beat goalkeeper Victor Valdes with a slightly deflected shot.

But Messi had a hand in restoring the lead for the hosts only four minutes later when he got to the end line and pulled the ball back to the penalty spot for Alex Song, who scored his first Barcelona goal with side-footed effort.

Zaragoza was putting up a good fight as the match moved into the second half, but Messi made sure his team came away with all three points as he collected a pass from Martin Montoya and curled a shot off the far post and into the net for a classy finish which takes his goal tally in La Liga to 17.

Real Madrid 5, Athletic Bilbao 1

Madrid, Spain - Real Madrid collected its fifth successive win on Saturday in comfortable fashion, turning back Athletic Bilbao, 5-1, at the Bernabeu.

The day started poorly for Bilbao as defender Jon Aurtenetxe scored an own goal after 12 minutes, and things got increasingly worse as the match wore on.

Sergio Ramos netted his first goal of the campaign on a header from Mesut Ozil's free kick, while Karim Benzema returned to the lineup and scored a brilliant goal on the turn with his left foot.

Ibai Gomez pulled a goal back for Bilbao shortly before halftime, but Madrid kept its foot on the pedal in the second half with Ozil and Sami Khedira each adding another goal to help the home side pull away.

The result still leaves Madrid eight points back of leaders Barcelona, while Bilbao has lost three of its last five games and sits four points above the drop zone.

Osasuna 0, Malaga 0

Navarra, Spain - Malaga's winless streak in La Liga reached four games on Saturday as the club was held to a 0-0 draw at Osasuna.

The home side entered the contest on the bottom of the league but was unlucky not to move in front in the first half when a goal was taken away for a close offside decision.

Alvaro Cejudo then had two chances in the final 15 minutes to win the game for Osasuna when he was first denied by goalkeeper Willy Caballero in a one-on-one situation before Caballero thwarted another shot in the final minutes.

Valencia 2, Espanyol 1

Valencia, Spain - Espanyol slipped to the bottom of the league after sustaining a 2-1 defeat at Valencia that saw the visitors finish the match with nine men.

Jonathan Viera fired Valencia in front after 15 minutes before Espanyol found the equalizer on the half-hour mark courtesy of Samuele Longo.

But just when it looked like Espanyol would hold on for a point, Hector Moreno was called for a handball inside his own penalty area.

Both Moreno and Sergio Garcia were sent off for protesting to the referee, and Valencia's Roberto Soldado stepped to the spot and fired home the winning goal to move his team into sixth place.

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