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La Liga: Messi scores 400th in rout; the Madrids hold serve

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A roundup of all of the weekend’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Barcelona 3-0 Eibar

Lionel Messi became the first player to ever score 400 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues (WATCH HERE), because of course he did. Other than that, Sunday was little more than a routine day out for Barcelona, who maintained their five-point lead in the title race with a 3-0 victory over Eibar.

Luis Suarez put the home side ahead after just 19 minutes; Messi made it 2-0 in the 53rd; Suarez grabbed another to complete the scoring six minutes later.

That’s six straight league victories for Barca, and seven straight without defeat.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Levante

Atleti have prevailed as the main — if not only — formidable title challengers to Barca, now five points clear of third-place Sevilla and fourth-place Real Madrid. Alas, the same gap still exists between themselves and the defending champions.

All Diego Simeone’s side can do is keep winning and hope that Barca slip up somewhere along the way. Sunday’s home clash with 11th-place Levante was something of a grind, but Antoine Griezmann’s 57th-minute penalty kick was just enough to extend Los Rojiblancos‘ unbeaten run to 16 games. The trouble, of course, is that they have dropped points in seven of them.

Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Dreams of the title have long since gone for the other Madrid — probably — as their attention should now turn to a full-on rebuild of an aging squad. In the meantime, Los Blancos are still made up of a number of world-class players. Take, for instance, 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who scored one of the best goals of his brilliant career on Sunday.

Betis equalized in the 67th minute, though, setting the stage for one of the club’s former favorites, Dani Ceballos, to break the home fans’ hearts in the 88th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Girona 1-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Villarreal 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Leganes 1-0 Huesca (Saturday)
Valencia 1-1 Real Valladolid (Saturday)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Sevilla

La Liga roundup: It was a truly splendid day to be Barcelona

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona

Sunday could not have gone any better for current leaders — now five points clear of their closest title competition — Barcelona. Not only did everyone else drop points — more on that in a moment — but Ernesto Valverde’s side picked up its fifth straight win, with many thanks to the contributions of two familiar faces.

You shouldn’t give Lionel Messi one look at goal, let alone two. Alas, that’s exactly what Getafe did in the 20th minute. David Soria did well to make the save on Messi’s initial effort, but an unlucky ricochet saw the undisputed greatest player of all time reclaim possession with a suddenly empty net. The outcome was predictable.

Speaking of Getafe not fully clearing dangerous balls into the penalty area, Luis Suarez’s sensational volley might still be soaring on a perfectly level plane if not for the back of the net.

There was also the small matter of Messi playing one of the most impossible through balls to ever be completed, even if the chance wasn’t converted on the other end.

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Coming into the weekend, second-place Atletico Madrid trailed Barca by just three points; Sevilla, in third, were five back. In the eyes of anyone who subscribes to “anyone but Barcelona again,” a draw was the worst possible outcome. To Barca, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Sevilla took the lead through Wissam Ben Yedder in the 37th minute, but Antoine Griezmann had Atleti level, by way of a stellar free kick, before halftime.

On the plus side, Atleti’s unbeaten run now stands at 15 league games, while Sevilla haven’t lost in nine.

Real Madrid 0-2 Real Sociedad

As if Barca increasing their lead to five points wasn’t enough, Sunday also saw Real Madrid, who can now be discarded as completely irrelevant in the title race at 10 points back, lose to 15th-place Real Socieded, at home.

Madrid finished the game with just 10 men after Lucas Vazquez picked up his second yellow card in the 61st minute, but Los Blancos had been a goal since Willian Jose’s 3rd-minute penalty. Ruben Pardo made it 2-0 with just seven minutes of regular time left to play.

The result, coupled with Alaves’ victory on Saturday, sees Santiago Solari’s side slip to fifth in the league table.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0-0 Villarreal

La Liga: Alaves remain unbeaten at home, rise to 4th

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Alaves extended its impressive form in the Spanish league by fighting back to beat Valencia 2-1 on Saturday, remaining undefeated through all nine games at home.

The small team from the northern Basque Country climbed past Real Madrid and into fourth place at six points behind leader Barcelona. Alaves also established its best record for the first half of a league with 31 points after 19 rounds.

“You have to appreciate what this team has done,” said Alaves coach Abelardo Fernandez, who took over the team last season and turned it around. “Alaves deserves a monument for what these players have done through the first half of the season. I am proud to be their coach.”

Valencia dominated possession with its flashier attack, but Alaves got its goals by outmuscling rivals to balls in the area.

Dani Parejo gave Valencia the lead in the 14th minute at Mendizorroza Stadium where the midfielder bent a free kick over the defensive barrier.

Alaves forward Borja Baston fought off Mouctar Diakhaby to win a ball from a corner kick and level in the 21st.

Midfielder Tomas Pina added to the fightback in first-half injury time when he scrambled home a ball after Alaves pinned Valencia in its area and came close to scoring twice.

“We know that, while not superior, we can compete with anybody at home,” Pina said. “We feel how much our fans push us. That is one of our strengths. We hope that this harmony with our supporters continues.”

Valencia was left in 11th place as its disappointing season continues for a side that finished fourth last season.

“We knew they were good at set-pieces and that they had scored six or seven goals that way this season, but we let our concentration down and committed two errors,” said Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno, who missed one of Valencia’s few chances to get a second goal.

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique buys tiny club in Spain’s 5th tier

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The investment group headed by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has purchased FC Andorra, a soccer club in the small country of Andorra that plays in Spain’s lower leagues.

Pique said in a statement Saturday that investment group Kosmos has taken over after club members approved the sale.

FC Andorra, founded in 1942, currently plays in Spain’s fifth tier against clubs in Catalonia. It played in the third division in the 1980s and ’90s.

The acquisition of the team is the latest business move by the 31-year-old Pique.

Pique’s Kosmos has won the backing of the International Tennis Federation to revamp the Davis Cup, transforming it into a season-ending tournament held in one venue as opposed to the current format which spreads ties out over months in different countries.

Pique, who is married to pop star Shakira, has also launched business ventures in esports, video games, eyeglasses, isotonic drinks and organic hamburgers.

Andorra is a nation of around 75,000 people tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Its soccer teams have permission to play in Spanish competitions.

La Liga: 10-man Sevilla score late, but lose ground in title race

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder kept 10-man Sevilla unbeaten in eight Spanish league games when the forward scored in stoppage time to snatch a 1-1 draw at Leganes on Sunday.

With dense fog at Butarque Stadium in Madrid, Ben Yedder slipped behind his marker and met Roque Mesa‘s short cross to the far post where the forward nodded the ball off the turf and into the corner of the net.

The draw left Pablo Machin’s Sevilla in third place and five points behind leader Barcelona as the league starts its two-week winter break.

“It was tough for us after they scored first, but we leave with a draw,” Ben Yedder said. “It is an important point.”

Leganes had gone ahead when Mikel Vesga headed in a cross by Allan Nyom in the fifth minute.

Sevilla was playing without top scorer Pablo Sarabia and midfielder Ever Banega, both serving one-game suspensions for accumulating five yellow cards.

It then lost Franco Vazquez when he was given a direct red card at halftime for arguing with the referee. Jesus Navas also had to be substituted during the break because of a muscle injury in his right leg.

“This team showed it has spirit and courage,” Machin said.

“We knew how to overcome the sending off and the problem with Jesus. . I am sure (Vazquez) thought that he was right . but it doesn’t justify losing your temper and getting sent off.”

Shortly before Ben Yedder netted his eighth goal in the league this season, both Sevilla’s Ibrahim Amadou and Leganes striker Youssef En-Nesyri sent shots off the woodwork.

Leganes, despite being near the bottom of the table in 16th place, hasn’t lost at home to the top three teams in the standings. It upset Barcelona 2-1 in September and drew 1-1 with second-placed Atletico Madrid last month.