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Barcelona beats Sevilla 4-0

BARCELONA shrugged off Real Madrid's dogged title challenge by edging closer to the Spanish league crown with a 4-0 pounding of third-placed Sevilla yesterday.

Real has won 17 of its last 18 league games in defense of the title to put some pressure on Barcelona, but the latter kept a six-point gap in the standings with an impressive performance at Camp Nou.

Barcelona has 81 points through 32 games, and Real 75.

Meanwhile, Malaga beat Osasuna 3-2 in a stormy encounter in which four players were sent off, David Villa scored twice to give Valencia a 2-1 win against Real Betis, and Deportivo La Coruna won 2-0 against Almeria.

Andres Iniesta scored early for Barcelona then set up the other three goals.

"Things went well for me tonight," Iniesta said. "There were good sensations for us during this match."

Playing without defender and captain Carles Puyol and forward Lionel Messi, who had a stomach complaint, Barcelona scored after only three minutes. Thierry Henry stole the ball in midfield and fed Iniesta, who fired from long range into the top right corner.

Samuel Eto'o increased his league-leading season tally to 27 goals in the 17th.

Midfielder Xavi Hernandez connected sweetly with a pass by Iniesta in 49th, then Henry posted his 16th goal of the season in the 54th.

Iniesta was substituted in the 61st by Alexander Hleb and received a standing ovation from the fans, including actor Antonio Banderas.

Xavi was substituted by coach Pep Guardiola in the 75th by 18-year-old Bojan Krkic.

Sevilla captain Enzo Maresca suffered a cut and had to play from the 27th minute with a large bandage around his head.

Valencia's Villa took his goalscoring tally to 25 with two goals against Betis, the first after controlling a pass from David Silva in the 65th and the second from forward Joaquin Sanchez's cross in the 78th.

Ricardo Oliveira pulled one back for Betis three minutes from time.

At Osasuna, Antonio "Apono" Galdeano earned Malaga the lead with four minutes gone after appearing to fall in the area and then converting the penalty.

Jaroslav Plasil then equalized for Osasuna with a shot past Malaga goalkeeper Inaki Goitia. Javad Nekounam got Osasuna's second from a free kick in the 33rd.

Osasuna's Francisco Punal was ejected in the 42nd and three minutes later Malaga's Jesus Gamez was also sent off, leaving each team with 10 men.

Osasuna lost another player when defender Josetxo Romero was ejected in the 70th.

Malaga equalized two minutes later when Manuel "Lolo" Ortiz scored with a header and Osasuna coach Jose Antonio Camacho was ejected by the referee.

Malaga's Salva Ballesta scored the winner, heading in Iban Cuadrado's cross in the 77th.

Osasuna were reduced to just eight men when Krisztian Vadocz was ejected in the 90th.


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