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Barcelona downs Atletico 5-2

LIONEL Messi netted twice to help leader Barcelona defeat Atletico Madrid 5-2 yesterday and continue its perfect start to the defense of its Spanish league title.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Daniel Alves and Seydou Keita also scored in the victory at Camp Nou. Barcelona has a maximum nine points.

Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan replied for Atletico, whose heavy defeat was a new blow for the club which finished fourth last season.

Atletico, whose fans last week staged a mass protest at the board's performance, stayed winless this season with just one point from its three games.

Also, Mallorca thumped nine-man Tenerife 4-0 to equal its best start in the Spanish league, Sevilla won 2-0 at Osasuna, Racing Santander won 2-1 at Malaga, while Espanyol gained its first points of the season with a 3-2 win at Deportivo La Coruna.

Barcelona is followed by Mallorca with seven points. Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao all have six.

Madrid, Valencia and Bilbao will also aim to join Barcelona on nine points today. Madrid entertains promoted Xerez, Valencia welcomes Sporting Gijon and Bilbao hosts Villarreal. Other games are: Zaragoza vs. Valladolid; and Almeria vs. Getafe.

Barcelona, which beat Atletico 6-1 in the corresponding league match last season, gave indications that it would repeat the scoreline after an exhilarating first-half display.

Thierry Henry hit the bar after a minute and Ibrahimavic deftly flicked the ball past Atletico's advancing goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez from Sergio Busquets' through pass to score a minute later.

The goal was Ibrahimovic's third league goal for Barcelona since he made his €66 million ($93.5 million) move from Inter Milan in July.

Messi celebrated the two-year contract extension he signed this week by doubling the champion's lead in the 16th. The Argentine took Xavi Hernandez's chip on his chest in full stride, raced past Roberto and slid the ball into an empty net.

Alves piled on the visitors' discomfort on the half-hour with a third goal, a powerful free kick from outside the area.

Ibrahimovic then passed to Messi and the forward rampaged past the Atletico defense before crossing low for Keita to tap in the fourth goal from close range in the 41st.

On the stroke of half time, Aguero became the first player to score against Barcelona this season, when following a mistake by Busquets, he outpaced defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy and chipped over goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

However, Aguero limped off with what appeared to be a left hamstring injury in the 74th to add to Atletico's concerns.

Forlan, the league's top scorer last season, notched his first goal of this campaign for Atletico's second goal in the 84th.

Messi crowned Barcelona's win by firing home in injury time following impressive approach work by Alves and substitute Andres Iniesta.

Mallorca previously reached the same points tally in 1998 under former coach Hector Cuper. The island team's feat this time has been achieved despite months of boardroom upheaval which ended last month when Tomeu Vidal became club president.

Mallorca midfielder Mario Suarez pounced in the 16th minute at Ono Stadium after Tenerife goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses had been unable to collect a corner cleanly.

Striker Aritz Aduriz headed Mallorca's second goal from Ayoze Diaz's cross in the 51st and forward Julio Alvarez netted the home team's third from a counter attack.

Promoted Tenerife's woes increased in the 75th when its central defender Ezequiel Luna received a second yellow card and right back Marc Beltran followed him 12 minutes later for the foul which led to substitute Achille Webo's 89th-minute penalty.

Sevilla followed up Wednesday's Champions League win over Unirea to gain a hard-earned first victory at Osasuna since the 1992-93 season.

Sevilla's recent signing from Real Madrid, Alvaro Negredo - replacing the injured Luis Fabiano - gave the visitors a 36th-minute lead from Adriano Correia's pass.

Negredo's strike partner, Frederic Kanoute, then shot home from the edge of the area in the 70th to seal a win which leaves Osasuna winless.

Osasuna defender Sergio Fernandez was ejected in the 81st for a foul on winger Diego Perotti.

Santander gained its first victory of the season at Malaga courtesy of defender Nasief Morris' 79th-minute headed winner.

Midfielder Manuel Arana put Santander ahead in the 36th, with Malaga midfielder Sergio "Duda" Barbosa equalizing direct from a free kick in the 72nd.

Espanyol midfielder Jose Callejon scored Espanyol's first goal of the season when he turned the ball over the line after Nicolas Pareja had hit the bar with a header in the 19th minute.

Deportivo equalized eight minutes later through forward Adrian Lopez only for Espanyol to restore its lead in the 41st through central defender Juan Daniel Forlin's header from Callejon's cross.

Espanyol midfielder Joan Verdu added a third goal against his former club in the 53rd, with Deportivo substitute Lassad Nouioui reducing the deficit in the 76th.


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