The Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo duel continues in Primera Liga

Barcelona still 10 points off Real Madrid at the top in Spain while Inter Milan's troubles continue as they lose again, to Napoli, and fail to score for fifth straight game in Italy.
Lionel Messi's goal was enough for Barcelona to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 and stay 10 points behind Real Madrid in the title race.
Lionel Messi's goal was enough for Barcelona to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 and stay 10 points behind Real Madrid in the title race.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a wonderful, back-heeled goal while Lionel Messi hit the target with a deadly accurate free kick as Real Madrid and Barcelona both emerged victorious from testing Primera Liga trips last night.

Ronaldo gave Real a 1-0 win over neighbours Rayo Vallecano while Messi scored his team's second goal in a 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid as Spain's two box office attractions took their league goals tally to 29 and 28 respectively.

The results also kept Real 10 points in front of the defending champions.

At Rayo Vallecano, the second half was eight minutes old when the home defence failed to clear a corner at the first attempt.

Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, facing away from the goal, back-heeled the ball so powerfully from 15 yards out that it evaded four Rayo defenders on its way into the left hand corner of the net.

"A back-heel is always different. It was a great goal but I'm not sure if it was the best of my career - I have to see it again on TV," said Ronaldo.

"The most important thing is the victory and the points."

After Barcelona's victory, coach Pep Guardiola once again refused to discuss his future at the Catalan club.

"I've had enough of that topic. When there is news you will all know, it's getting tiring talking about it," he told reporters.

On the 10-point gap behind Madrid, Guardiola added: "When you are 10 points behind you are not thinking about winning them all back, but simply to play well in what was a complicated game for us and to get the three points.

"We have to keep winning and see if we have the opportunity to get back into the title race."

Barcelona dominated the first half at Atletico and the breakthrough came on 35 minutes when Dani Alves finished off a swift attacking move started by Messi who presented Cesc Fabregas with the chance to gift the Brazilian the opener.

However it was a different Atletico that emerged for the second period and they were soon level when Colombian striker Radamel Falcao met a corner to grab his 15th league goal of the season on 48 minutes.

The game seemed to be heading for a draw until Gabi Fernandez tripped Pedro Rodriguez on the edge of the Atletico area.

As Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was lining up his defensive wall Messi surprised everyone with a curling left-foot shot into the far corner.

In Italy, Inter Milan's crisis deepened after crashing to their seventh loss in eight matches, going down 1-0 to Napoli in Serie A from Ezequiel Lavezzi's second-half goal.

Lavezzi, who scored twice in Napoli's 3-1 win over Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League in midweek, pounced in the 59th minute to help his team rise to fifth place in the standings.

Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica was sent off in the 78th minute for committing a serious foul. Giampaolo Pazzini missed a glorious chance to snatch a draw for Inter three minutes from time.

Inter, who have now not scored in five successive games, barely had a sight of goal.

"Why should I take a step backwards? I won't resign because I believe in this squad," Inter coach Claudio Ranieri said. "We have the desire and the energy to return to winning ways.

"We need to return to scoring goals and winning. Napoli played well and it was a good game. It's a pity Pazzini missed."

Lazio had also been in the middle of a bad run, having lost four of their past five games. The side have had a troubled past few days after coach Edy Reja offered his resignation on Thursday following his team's exit from the Europa League at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

Former Chelsea great Gianfranco Zola seemed to be on verge of taking over on Saturday after having talks with the club in Rome, but Reja was eventually convinced to stay following clear-the-air talks with Lazio president Claudio Lotito.

They beat Fiorentina 1-0 thanks to a goal from Miroslav Klose.

Published: February 27, 2012 04:00 AM


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