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Iniesta-led Barcelona punishes 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 on Wednesday.

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, 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."

Without defender

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.

In Italy, Lazio eliminated Juventus from the Italian Cup with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday, advancing to the final 4-2 on aggregate.

Mauro Zarate scored with a curving shot from beyond the area in the 38th minute and Aleksandar Kolarov doubled the lead in the 52nd with an even longer shot that was deflected past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero came on in the 60th and scored four minutes later, stopping a cross from Mauro Camoranesi with his chest and finding the target from the center of the area.

Juventus played the final eight minutes with 10 men after Camoranesi was sent off.


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