Messi goal proves decisive for Barcelona

Messi (right) proved a handful for Getafe's defenders all night.
Lionel Messi scored a 19th minute winner as Barcelona moved ever closer to regaining the Spanish title with a 1-0 victory at Getafe on Saturday night.

Barcelona had not won in the Coliseum since 2005 and owed victory to the Argentine’s 20th goal of the season. It leaves Barca nine points clear of champions Real Madrid who were facing a tricky away match at Recreativo Huelva later on Saturday. By coincidence, Getafe next play Madrid neighbors Real on Wednesday night with the leaders at home to Sevilla. Barca coach Pep Guardiola fielded a strong team for the away trip and they responded to cap a fine week after completing a Champions League quarterfinal win over Bayern Munich. Goalkeeper Victor Valdes made his 300th appearance for the Catalan giants but was rarely tested as Barca dominated. Messi scored after a pass from Xavi and fellow striker Samuel Eto’o had other chances to extend the lead, hitting the post in the second half, but they still eased to victory.

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In other action, Atletico Madrid moved above Valencia into the fourth qualifying spot for the Champions League with a 3-0 win over struggling Numancia. Valencia can leapfrog them by avoiding defeat against third-placed Sevilla whom they host on Sunday. Villarreal, a point behind both sides in a close battle for the European places, are at Valladolid. Malaga were held 1-1 by Real Mallorca to slip two points behind Atletico while Deportivo La Coruna stayed in the hunt for a Europa Cup place with a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao.