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Messi, Iniesta help send Barcelona five clear

sports Updated: Jan 09, 2011 09:12 IST

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Ballon d'Or finalists Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta scored a goal apiece as champions Barcelona continued their flawless away record with a 4-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday to move five points clear of Real Madrid.

Messi curled in a terrific left-footed free-kick early in the second half for his 18th league goal of the season while Spanish World Cup winner Iniesta scored a sensational, late individual goal as Barcelona made it a perfect nine wins on the road.

Spanish internationals David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez were also on target as Barcelona recorded a 12th consecutive league victory to put pressure on rivals Real Madrid to defeat Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Barcelona have all three finalists for the 2010 Ballon d'Or award, with the winner to be announced on Monday.

"We don't know who is going to win the Ballon d'Or but it will be a triumph for Barcelona," said Villa.

"We will just have to wait until Monday but we are proud to have the three finalists."

The other finalist, Spanish international Xavi Hernandez, was rested along with fellow first-teamers Dani Alves and Sergi Busquets as manager Pep Guardiola rotated his squad for what was their third game in seven intense days.

Although Villa did not make the final cut for the Ballon d'Or, he has been a revelation in his debut Barcelona season and the 40 million euro signing from Valencia opened the scoring on 26 minutes.

Messi fed Villa with a deft pass and the striker shot through the goalkeeper's legs to give the visitors a much-deserved lead.

Iniesta then produced a sublime pass on 37 minutes and French full back Eric Abidal, who scored his first ever Barcelona goal in the Kings Cup in midweek, thought he had scored his first league goal for the club but was denied by an offside flag.

Six minutes into the second half Messi doubled Barca's lead with a sensational free-kick that goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia could only watch and admire.

Messi was hauled down just outside the penalty area and he dusted himself down to curl a precise free-kick around the wall and into the top left hand corner.

On 78 minutes it was Iniesta's turn to show why he is being considered for the Ballon d'Or title, cutting inside off the right flank before curling in a fine shot into the far corner.

Two minutes later Pedro made it 4-0 before Barcelona gave Dutch international midfielder Ibrahim Afellay his league debut following his transfer window move from PSV Eindhoven.

Champions League hopefuls Sevilla continued their perfect start to 2011 when in-form Mali striker Frederic Kanoute scored twice in a 3-2 comeback win at Real Sociedad.

"Frederic was excellent and has been doing brilliant things for us," said Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano. "He brings a lot of different qualities."

Two goals in as many minutes turned the game with Kanoute, after 63 minutes, and Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, in the 65th, making it a perfect two league wins from two in the new year for Sevilla, who move up to ninth, five points off the top four.

It was a third win in seven days for Manzano's side, who had beaten Osasuna 1-0 in the league on Sunday, before crushing Malaga 3-0 in the Kings Cup on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the competition 8-3 on aggregate.