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Barcelona rallies as super sub Messi nets twice

LIONEL Messi scored two goals after coming on as a second half substitute on Sunday as Barcelona rallied for a 2-1 victory against Racing Santander to maintain its 12-point lead in the Spanish league.

Barcelona, which finished the game with only nine players, fell behind to a 56th minute penalty converted by Nicolas Zigic at the El Sardinero stadium.

But Messi scored with his first touch in the 65th minute, slotting home a loose ball at the near post, and the midfielder then volleyed the winner past goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez in the 81st for the 5,000th goal in Barcelona's history.

Barcelona, which has won nine straight games in a 20-match unbeaten run, leads with 56 points from 21 games. Real Madrid is second with 44 and Sevilla stayed on 38 after a 1-0 loss to 10-man Sporting Gijon.

"Another three points and another small step forward," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola will be without defenders Rafael Marquez, Gerard Pique and Daniel Alves for a league match with Sporting Gijon due to suspensions, with Marquez and Pique both dismissed in the final minutes. "Against Sporting we'll see what we do. We'll use what we have and look to the second team," Guardiola said.

Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop saved Mate Bilic's fifth-minute penalty but was caught out in the 17th by Carmelo Gonzalez's cross, which Diego Castro headed in at the far post.

Valencia is fourth with 37 points after beating Almeria 3-2.

Joaquin Sanchez gave Valencia a sixth minute lead but Alvaro Negredo equalized before Spain striker David Villa struck twice for the home team, either side of halftime.

Coach Javier Aguirre's job could be on the line after Atletico remained winless in 2009 after a 2-1 loss to Valladolid.

In Sunday's other games, it was: Deportivo La Coruna 3, Villarreal 0; Espanyol 1, Recreativo Huelva 1; Real Betis 2, Getafe 2; and Osasuna 1, Mallorca 0.


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