Barca capitalise on Real and Villarreal slips

MADRID - Barcelona opened a three-point lead at the top of the Primera Liga on Sunday after goals from Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita gave them a 2-0 win at struggling Recreativo Huelva. Spain midfielder Xavi fooled the Recreativo defence by playing a short ball to Messi from a freekick and the Argentine smashed the ball into the roof of the net for his seventh league goal of the season. Thierry Henry shot against the bar and a post before Keita sealed the win near the end with a simple tap-in from Samuel Eto'o's mishit shot. Earlier, Villarreal twice surrendered the lead to draw 2-2 at Malaga, Diego Forlan scored two second-half goals as Atletico Madrid thumped visiting Deportivo Coruna 4-1 and Sevilla won 2-0 at Getafe. Sunday's victory extends Barcelona's winning streak in the league to nine and the Catalans have 28 points from 11 matches ahead of unbeaten Villarreal on 25. Real Madrid and Valencia both missed opportunities to take provisional top spot on Saturday. Fourth-placed Real's poor run of form continued when they lost 1-0 at Real Valladolid and Valencia were beaten 3-2 at home by Sporting Gijon and are in third. Real, Valencia and Sevilla all have 23 points, with the Andalusians in fifth on goal difference, and Atletico are one place behind Sevilla on 17. Last-placed Osasuna are still without a win after they lost 2-0 at fellow strugglers Athletic Bilbao thanks to goals from Joseba Garmendia and Fernando Llorente. The defeat for the Pamplona club leaves them stuck on five points and increases the pressure on coach Jose Antonio Camacho, while Athletic move up to 18th with nine points, two ahead of Recreativo in 19th on seven. Messi said it had been a struggle to overcome Recreativo's stubborn resistance. "The whole squad is responsible for the win and I am very happy," Messi said in a pitch-side television interview. LATE EQUALISER In Malaga earlier, former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi opened the scoring for Villarreal in the seventh minute when he fired a powerful low shot from the edge of the area that squirmed under keeper Francesc Arnau. Portuguese midfielder Duda equalised with a superb long-range freekick with just under half an hour gone and Robert Pires put Joseba Llorente through shortly after halftime, the striker's shot flashing between Arnau's legs. Helder Rosario snatched a late equaliser with a glanced header from a corner. Deportivo's defenders were at fault for John Heitinga's opener for Atletico at the Vicente Calderon when they failed to cut out Simao Sabrosa's corner and allowed the Dutchman to chest the ball into the net. Uruguay striker Forlan galloped through to score the home side's second through the legs of Depor keeper Daniel Aranzubia just after halftime and captain Maxi Rodriguez grabbed a third with just over 20 minutes left. Forlan got his second with a smart finish in the 81st minute and Filipe scored Depor's consolation just before the end.