FC Barcelona struck what may prove to be the decisive blow in the Spanish title race by winning 6-2 at Real Madrid CF, with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry scoring two apiece for the UEFA Champions League semi-finalists.
Josep Guardiola's side's once commanding lead at the top of the Liga had shrunk to just four points before kick-off at the Santiago Bernabéu, and the visitors had reason to be nervous just 14 minutes into Saturday's fixture as an unmarked Gonzalo Higuaín headed Madrid into the lead. However, the Barça response was to be devastating, with Messi flicking a ball over the Madrid defence for Henry to level on 17 minutes before Carles Puyol headed them into a 20th-minute lead.
Caught in possession
It was 3-1 ten minutes from the break, with Messi racing into the area to beat Iker Casillas with a shot with the outside of his left boot after Lassana Diarra had been caught in possession by Xavi Hernández. Sergio Ramos brought Madrid back into the game on 56 minutes, heading in Arjen Robben's free-kick, but with their next meaningful attack Barça restored their lead, with Henry beating the on-rushing Casillas after Xavi's long ball took Sergio Ramos out of the game.
Defeat descended into a total rout in the closing stages, with Messi scoring his second of the night on 75 minutes, beating Casillas at his near post after more great work from Xavi. Gerard Piqué made it 6-2 eight minutes from time, scoring at the second attempt after Casillas blocked his effort from Samuel Eto'o's cross. Barça are now seven points clear at the top with four games to go.
Elsewhere, Sevilla FC kept their grip on third place with a 2-0 win at Villarreal CF. Luis Fabiano handed them a 58th-minute lead, but despite losing Abdoulay Konko for a second bookable offence, Frédéric Kanouté put a seal on victory with a second goal five minutes from time. Relegation-threatened CD Numancia also ended their game against Malága CF with ten men and a 2-0 win.
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