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Barcelona cement their lead

sports Updated: Jan 25, 2010 00:59 IST

Agencies
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Barcelona moved eight points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish league with a 3-0 win at lowly Valladolid to finish an impressive first half of the season.

Two goals in as many minutes from Xavi (20 min) and Dani Alves (22) on Saturday set the tone before Lionel Messi scored his sixth goal in three games to take his tally to 15.

Real, beaten 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao last time out, are now under extreme pressure to respond with a home win over Malaga on Sunday or risk Barcelona running away with the title.

It is halfway through the season and Barca are still unbeaten and their tally of 49 points from 19 games is just one less than their record last season.

Barcelona become only the fifth team to go unbeaten for the first half of the season, joining Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol and Real Sociedad in the elite club.

Xavi started the move with a neat flick and raced into the penalty area to volley in a pinpoint cross from Alves.

Alves was causing havoc down the right and scored himself two minutes later when his overhit cross floated into the top corner and the Brazilian celebrated with a samba dance.

Valladolid had their chances with Diego Costa forcing a fine save from Victor Valdes three minutes prior to Xavi’s opener but there was a sense of inevitability that Barca would win after going 2-0 up early on.

After 54 minutes Messi finished a fine move lashing home after a fine lay-off from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Riise sinks Juventus

Rome: Norway left-back John Arne Riise popped up in injury time to head home the winner as AS Roma condemned 10-man Juventus to an eighth defeat in 11 matches with a 2-1 success in Turin.

Saturday’s defeat will surely leave Juve coach Ciro Ferrara on the brink as his mis-firing team slumped to a sixth defeat in eight Serie A clashes.

Easy win for Chelsea

London: Holders Chelsea booked their place in the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-0 win at Preston North End on Saturday while Jermaine Beckford’s last-gasp penalty earned Leeds United a 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.

Burnley were the day’s Premier League fall guys, losing 1-0 to Championship (second division) Reading while Wigan Athletic escaped humiliation by the skin of their teeth, drawing 2-2 at League Two (fourth tier) Notts County after trailing 2-0.

Wolverhampton Wanderers needed a late equaliser to draw 2-2 at home to Championship side Crystal Palace and Fulham had some tricky moments before winning 3-1 at Accrington Stanley.