La Liga Round-up
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Barcelona took another step towards the Spanish title after a 2-0 win over Albacete.Barcelona took another step towards the Spanish title after grinding out a 2-0 win against Albacete.
The Catalans were far from their fluent best against their lowly opponents, but second goals from Samuel Eto'o and Messi ensured they reopened the six-point gap to fierce rivals Real Madrid in second.
Barca were frustrated for long periods, particularly by Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena, and struggled to carve out clear-cut chances against a stubborn if uninspired visiting side.
However, with the home fans getting audibly concerned, Eto'o calmed nerves by firing home a curling effort from 20 yards to open the scoring midway through the second period.
Substitute Messi put a gloss on the scoreline by adding a second in injury time. The 17-year-old had only been on the pitch for a few minutes but, after being denied once by the offside flag, showed admirable composure to lob home after an exquisite lofted through-ball from Ronaldinho.
Sevilla moved three points clear in third place with a fine 2-0 home success over Deportivo La Coruna, goals inside the first 20 minutes from Brazilian full back Adriano Correia and Jesus Navas settled the match.
Mallorca gave themselves renewed hope of avoiding the drop after a deserved 3-2 home win over UEFA Champions League-chasing Espanyol.
The Catalan side moved ahead on nine minutes thanks to fine long-range strike from Hugo Ibarra, but the visitors were very much on the back-foot from that moment on.
The Islanders, inspired by Juan Arango who was making his return to action following a fractured cheekbone caused by the elbow of Sevilla's Javi Navarro, pulled level five minutes after the break when Alejandro Campano scored.
Arango then edged them in front with a fine individual effort on 70 minutes and Campano gave them a two-goal cushion with his second ten minutes from time.
Maxi Rodriguez did pull one back on the stroke of full time, but it proved no more than a consolation.
Levante are now looking nervously over their shoulders at Mallorca after a 1-0 home defeat to Malaga which saw manager Bernd Schuster sacked.
The Valencia-based outfit are now just four points clear of third-bottom Mallorca with four games remaining after going down to a solitary Fernando Baiano strike.
Villarreal maintained their Champions League ambitions with a thumping 4-0 victory over Getafe.
Diego Forlan continued his prolific campaign with another two goals, while Juan Pablo Sorin and Santiago Cazorla also chipped in.
Racing Santander were left frustrated after seeing a late winner against Real Betis chalked off. The Cantabrians dominated the game and appeared to be on the way to victory when Yossi Benayoun volleyed home on the hour mark.
However, Joaquin fed Dani for the equaliser 11 minutes from time and the hosts were denied all three points when Javi Guerrero saw an effort ruled out for offside in the final minute.
Real Zaragoza produced a fine display to crush Osasuna 5-1 at La Romareda, with striker David Villa continuing his recent hot streak.
Villa notched for the fourth consecutive game when he opened the scoring on ten minutes and further strikes from Savio and Oscar Gonzalez gave the hosts a three-goal cushion at the interval.
David Generalo added a fourth just past the hour mark and, although Moha pulled one back shortly afterwards, Villa had the final say with his second five minutes from time.
Click below for match summaries:
Barcelona 2-0 Albacete
Levante 0-1 Malaga
Mallorca 3-2 Espanyol
Racing Santander 1-1 Real Betis
Real Zaragoza 5-1 Osasuna
Sevilla 2-0 Deportivo
Villarreal 4-0 Getafe
Click here for an updated Primera Liga table.