Quickfire goals help Barca get over Messi injury
MADRID (Reuters) - A Cesc Fabregas double helped Barcelona maintain their unbeaten start to the season with a 4-1 win at bottom side Real Betis to move three points clear in La Liga on Sunday although they lost Lionel Messi to injury.
Barca now have 37 points from 13 games ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who were denied a couple of hours on top of the table when Juanfran put the ball in his own net late on in a 1-1 draw at Villarreal who also scored an own goal.
Barcelona midfielder Fabregas struck twice in the second half after quickfire goals from Neymar and Pedro in the 35th and 37th minutes had settled the champions, who required three top class saves from Victor Valdes before they took control.
Messi had been replaced by Andres Iniesta after 21 minutes as the World Player of the Year called for a change with a hamstring injury before Fabregas squared for Brazil forward Neymar to sidefoot the opener into an empty net.
Pedro's goal two minutes later was outstanding as the Spain forward burst forward from his own half, raced into the area and curled a shot inside the far post.
Betis struck the post early in the second half, but a sublime pass from Iniesta saw Marc Montoya set up Fabregas to score a third after 63 minutes and the former Arsenal captain then headed a fourth goal in off the post in the 79th.
A Betis penalty at the end from Jorge Molina was little more than a consolation.
Diego Simeone's Atletico side were on course for a victory after a Villarreal own-goal in the second minute. Continued...