Messi draws another blank but Barca win derby

Fri Nov 1, 2013 7:18pm EDT
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona extended their near-perfect start to the season when Alexis Sanchez tapped in at the far post from Neymar's clever assist to secure a 1-0 win at home to city rivals Espanyol in La Liga on Friday.

The biggest surprise of the night was that Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi failed to score for a fourth straight league match in which he played the full 90 minutes, the Argentina forward's worst run in almost six years.

Victory in the Catalan derby, the 21st consecutive league triumph for the champions at the Nou Camp going back to last season, put Barca four points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid with 34 out of a possible 36 after 12 matches.

The only game they failed to win was a 0-0 draw at Osasuna on October 19.

Atletico host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday after Real Madrid, five points behind in third place, visit Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

In-form forward Alexis, who scored brilliantly in last week's 2-1 'Clasico' win at home to Real, grabbed his seventh league goal of the season in a match against eighth-placed Espanyol that Barca dominated without creating many chances.

Brazil forward Neymar somehow managed to thread a cross from the left through the legs of two defenders after 68 minutes and Alexis pounced to earn his side victory.

"It was a very tough, physical match for us," Alexis told Canal Plus television. "We are going home satisfied because they were three very important points.   Continued...

Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez (L, facing camera) celebrates a goal against Espanyol with teammates Neymar and Andres Iniesta (R) during their Spanish First division soccer league match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Albert Gea