Messi nets brace as Barca beat Zaragoza
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi netted his eighth brace of the season and created a third goal to steer Barcelona to a 3-1 win over a feisty Real Zaragoza yesterday as the Spanish league leaders kept alive their club-record start.
Unbeaten Barcelona's 11th victory in 12 rounds opened an 11-point gap over Real Madrid and piled the pressure on the defending champions to keep pace later against Athletic Bilbao.
Messi started the scoring at Camp Nou Stadium in the 16th. After Zaragoza levelled through Paco Montanes in the 24th, Messi assisted Alex Song four minutes later to re-establish Barcelona's advantage for good before adding a third goal in the 60th.
The Argentina forward's ninth multi-goal game in league play took his competition-best tally to 17 goals, five more than Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barcelona recovered Carles Puyol for its defence with the centre back seeing his first action since dislocating his elbow on October 2, while Song started as its holding midfielder in place of suspended Sergio Busquets.
After missing a clear chance early, Messi got the hosts going by slotting a left-footed shot just inside the post to finish off a move he started by playing Jordi Alba wide before sliding forward to receive the left back's return pass.
Zaragoza, which had won three of their previous four games, pushed forward in search of the equaliser that came from Montanes when he fired in a loose ball after a corner kick.