Messi Scores as Barcelona Stay Seven Points Clear in Spain

Messi has now scored 69 penalties for Barcelona

Lionel Messi scored a penalty as La Liga leaders Barcelona yesterday came from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano and retain their seven-point lead at the top.

Raul de Tomas, on loan from Real Madrid, had given Rayo a surprise lead with an excellent 20-yard strike.

Gerard Pique headed an equaliser from Messi’s free-kick and the Barca captain nonchalantly put the treble-chasing champions ahead from the spot. Luis Suarez tapped home a late third after a one-two with Ivan Rakitic.

Messi is La Liga’s top scorer with 26 goals in 25 games, with Suarez second on 17.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid had briefly narrowed the gap on Barca with a 1-0 win over Leganes earlier yesterday, Saul scoring the only goal.

Barcelona were made to work hard by Rayo Vallecano, who are in the relegation zone after six consecutive defeats, but Ernesto Valverde’s side are now unbeaten in 14 La Liga games, a run going back to November. They have won 13 consecutive league games against Rayo since 2002.

Next up for the Catalan side is a home game against Lyon in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, having drawn the first leg 0-0 in France.