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Messi Reaches 90 Goals, Barca Open 9-point Lead

17 Dec 2012

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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scored twice for his eighth straight start and reached 90 goals for the calendar year, leading Barcelona over second-place Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Spanish league Sunday night and opening a 13-point lead over defending champion Real Madrid.

''This league is ours to lose,'' Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said.

After Real Madrid stumbled to a 2-2 tie against Espanol earlier in the evening, Atletico went ahead in the 31st minute of the late game when Diego Costa stripped Messi of the ball in midfield and fed Radamel Falcao, who chipped goalkeeper Victor Valdes for his 17th league goal this season, reports The Associated Press.

Adriano tied the score with a curling left-footed shot that went in off the crossbar in the 36th, and Sergio Busquets put Barcelona ahead in the 45th after Atletico failed to clear a corner kick. Messi scored in the 57th minute off a pass from Alexis Sanchez and then stole the ball from Diego Godin to score in the 88th.

The three-time FIFA player of the year already had broken the record of 85 goals in a year for club and country, set by Gerd Mueller of Bayern Munich in 1972. The Argentine forward, who has one game left in 2012, has 34 goals for Barcelona already this season, including 25 in the league.

Barcelona (15-0-1), off to the best start in La Liga history, has a nine-point lead over Atletico (12-3-1).

''Messi is the best player in the world,'' said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. ''We brought out our best weapons, but Barcelona is playing at a different level. You can't do anything against their determination. This league is boring.''

Real Madrid (10-3-3) allowed substitute Juan Albin to score off of a poorly defended corner kick in the 88th minute, giving relegation-threatened threatened Espanyol a 2-2 tie.

''I have never been in a situation like this, dropping so many points and with a team so far from its objectives,'' Real coach Jose Mourinho said.'' It's new for me. The league looks impossible to me now, but we have to have the dignity to always try to win.''

Sergio Garcia put the visitors ahead in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo tied the score in first-half injury time with his 14th league goal of the season and 23rd overall.

Ronaldo set up Fabio Coentrao's goal that gave Madrid a 2-1 lead three minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere, U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra returned from a torn muscle in his left leg, playing the entire match in Racing Santander's 1-0 home loss to Sabadell in Spain's second division.

The defender was injured in the Americans' 2-2 exhibition draw at Russia on Nov. 14, and Santander said a week later that it expected him to miss another six weeks.

And in Italy, AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino dedicated his goal in Sunday's 4-1 Italian league win over Pescara to the victims of the school shooting in Connecticut.

After the game, an emotional Nocerino said he wanted to ''take the chance to dedicate my goal to the American families of the children killed in the school, my thoughts are only with them.''

The Italian scored 35 seconds in. Nocerino, who has two young children, says he doesn't ''know how much the dedication will help the dead American children, but everything I did today was only for them.''

On the 113th anniversary of AC Milan's founding, the hosts (8-6-3) got own goals by Pescara in the 51st and 79th minutes and Stephan El Shaarawy scored the final goal in the 81st.

Defending champion Juventus defeated visiting Atalanta 3-0, with Mirko Vucinic scoring 80 seconds in and Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio adding goals. After Juventus built a three-goal lead, Thomas Manfredini was ejected in the 31st minute for his second yellow card.

Juventus (13-2-2) has a seven-point lead over second-place Inter Milan (11-5-1). Napoli (10-4-3) is another point back after a 3-2 loss at home to Bologna, which got goals from Panagiotis Kone in the 86th and Daniele Portanova in the 89th,

Sergio Pellissier scored in the 87th minute to give Chievo Verona a 1-0 win over visiting Roma and American midfielder Michael Bradley, who transferred from Chievo to Roma last summer.

Tags: Sports, World, MESSI, 90 GOALS, Atletico

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