Barcelona cruises to 6-2 win over Real

MADRID: Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi scored two goals each as Barcelona dismantled archrival Real Madrid 6-2 Saturday, putting it on the verge of a first Spanish league title in three years.

Gonzalo Higuain headed Madrid into the lead after 14 minutes, but it was all Barcelona from then on.

Henry equalized four minute later, and Carles Puyol gave Barcelona the lead with a header in the 20th. Messi added the third, beating Iker Casillas in the 36th from a Madrid turnover.

Sergio Ramos gave the two-time defending champions hope in the 56th, but Henry, Messi and Gerard Pique sealed the "clasico" match to give Barcelona the most goals it has ever scored at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Barcelona now leads Madrid by seven points with four games to play after a victory that may well have decided the title race.

Barcelona, which is looking to snap a three-year trophyless drought, is also likely to have boosted its confidence ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semifinal match at Chelsea. The teams drew 0-0 in the first leg.

Casillas single-handedly kept Madrid within touch as the Spanish international made a handful of spectacular saves, including on Xavi Hernandez after just 30 seconds.

Madrid had the 90,000 spectators cheering after Ramos broke past Eric Abidal to cross into the area from the right, with Higuain clear to score his 19th goal of the season.

But Madrid couldn't keep Barcelona's high-powered offense at bay, and Messi lofted a perfect pass over Ramos in the 18th for Henry to move free on goal along the right before sliding the ball past Casillas.

Fabio Cannavaro then fouled Henry along the goal line moments later, and Puyol was unmarked in front of the six-yard box to head home Xavi's free kick for his first goal of the season.

Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes was equally up to the challenge as he kicked out an effort from Arjen Robben in the 22nd and then prevented Daniel Alves from scoring an own-goal by stopping the ball on the goal line.

Casillas stopped Samuel Eto'o's rising shot in the 27th and twice denied Messi before the Argentina winger finally broke through in the 36th.

Xavi poked the ball away from Lassana Diarra and Messi jumped on the loose ball to go clear on goal, picking his spot to flick a left-footed roller past Casillas and inside the far post.

Barcelona maintained control of the tempo in the second half, but again looked shaky on set plays as Ramos was clear to head in Robben's free kick at the far post to give the crowd hopes of a rally.

But Henry re-established the two-goal cushion two minutes later.

The France striker beat the offside trap and reached Xavi's through ball ahead of a charging Casillas well outside the area to volley past the Madrid keeper into an empty goal.

Messi scored his 23rd of the season in the 75th after Xavi put him clear on goal to score with a shot inside the near post.

Pique completed the rout after he swiveled to send his own rebound past Casillas from a tight angle in the 83rd, capping Barcelona's most decisive win at the Bernabeu since Johann Cruyff led the Catalan club to a 5-0 win here 34 years ago.

Madrid saw an 18-match unbeaten run - which included 16 victories - snapped after its first defeat since a 2-0 loss to Barcelona at the Camp Nou in December.

Villarreal played third-place Sevilla later Saturday, and Numancia faced Malaga.