Barcelona survive Osasuna scare

Madrid, January 12:

Lionel Messi scored a thunderous 84th-minute winner as leaders Barcelona came back to overcome bottom side Osasuna 3-2 and restore their 12-point lead over Real Madrid.

Osasuna looked poised to cause the biggest upset of the season after goals from Miguel Flano (62) and Walter Pandiani (72) had cancelled out Samuel Eto’o’s 44th minute opener. Xavi marked his 300th league appearance with an 80th-minute equaliser. Four minutes later, Messi cut inside and fired a ferocious left-footed shot into the corner for his 11th goal of a great season.

Real had celebrated a 3-0 win over Real Mallorca hours earlier and must have thought Barca were going to drop at least a point but Messi had other ideas. Real captain Raul celebrated his 500th league appearance in the famous white shirt with a goal as the champions climbed to second with win at Mallorca.

Arjen Robben opened the scoring in the third minute before Raul struck in the 17th minute with his seventh goal of the campaign and Sergio Ramos netted a third in the second half. Real legend Raul now stands sixth in the Spanish league appearance standings just 24 matches from equalling the club record held by Manuel Sanchis. Former Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta holds the all-time appearance record with 622 league outings.

Atletico Madrid lost 3-2 at home to struggling Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao came from a goal down to stun Atletico whose misery was summed up when Maniche was sent off in the closing stages.


LONDON: Manchester United thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford as the Premier League champions moved an ominous step closer to leaders Liverpool. Nemanja Vidic headed United in front in first-half stoppage time and Wayne Rooney doubled their lead on the hour with a close-range volley. Dimitar Berbatov completed the rout in the 87th minute to lift United into third place.

Alex Ferguson’s side are now just five points behind Liverpool and one behind Chelsea. United have two games in hand of both their main title rivals. United face Wigan Athletic on Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Should they win both the matches they will be on top.

Defeat was Chelsea’s first on the road in the league this season and continued manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s poor record against the top sides since taking over at Stamford Bridge. Earlier, Wigan won for the sixth time in seven league matches when Maynor Figueroa’s late header earned a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur who are third from bottom.