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Lionel Messi Shoots Two Goals, Puts Barcalona Four Points Ahead of Real Madrid

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - MAY 01:  Lionel Messi (r) of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and FC Barcelona at El Madrigal stadium on May 1, 2010 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
George HouseContributor IMay 2, 2010

After being sunk by Inter Milan on Wednesday night , the Catalans faced a stern challenge to their domestic ambitions against a Villarreal side that had won their past six matches at El Madrigal.

But Pep Guardiola's side quickly extinguished the threat with three first-half goals from Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Bojan Krkic to ensure a more comfortable evening than could have been expected.

Villarreal did manage to pull a goal back after the break through half-time substitute Joseba Llorente, but Barca were never stretched and Messi added his second two minutes from the end.

It was a steadying victory in Barca's title defence and one that could be made all the more vital with the pressure now on Real Madrid to close the gap back to one point ahead of Osasuna's trip to the Bernabeu tomorrow.

Barca saw the defence of their Champions League title ended despite a 1-0 win over 10-man Inter in midweek, and showed some signs of suffering a hangover when Nilmar twice missed presentable chances in the opening minutes.

The hosts were made to pay as Barca stormed back with Xavi pulling the strings.

The 30-year-old Spain midfielder saw a shot fly narrowly over before his corner was headed wide of the left post by Carles Puyol.

Xavi's vision eventually provided the opening goal in the 18th minute when he fed Messi who turned quickly before his shot from an angle took a slight deflection and flew in.

Xavi then got his side's second on the half hour with a splendid free-kick.

Gonzalo Rodriguez fouled Pedro just outside the area and Xavi stepped up and bent his set-piece over the wall and past the despairing dive of Lopez.

Messi had another effort blocked soon after before Xavi provided the pass for his side's third.

This time he fed Bojan, although the young forward still had plenty to do as he first turned a defender before racing into the box and sliding a low shot past the goalkeeper.

Villarreal boss Juan Carlos Garrido brought on Llorente for Ruben Cani at the break and he pulled a goal back after 67 minutes.

Nilmar slid a defence-splitting pass just beyond Puyol and into the path of Llorente who finished coolly for his eighth goal of the campaign to give the hosts some hope.

But Barca were not about to let their lead slip and did not offer Villarreal another sight of goal before Messi sealed an impressive result in the shadows of full time when he slipped behind the defence and dinked his shot over the onrushing Lopez.

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