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Jan 13, 2013

Messi, Fabregas strike in Barcelona win

Lionel Messi celebrated his fourth straight Ballon d'Or award by scoring one goal and setting up two others to spark Barcelona to a 3-1 win at Malaga.

Messi won his record-breaking FIFA honor on Monday, taking the honor ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, and continued his magnificent scoring run by breaking the deadlock Sunday night in the 27th minute.

The Argentine then teed up Cesc Fabregas to put Barcelona two goals ahead after the interval before setting up substitute Thiago to make the game safe late -- despite Diego Buonanotte grabbing a consolation in the final minute.

It was ultimately a comfortable evening for the Primera Division leaders, who are 11 points clear of closest challengers Atletico Madrid.

"We started the season very strong, winning almost all the points possible, and we have kept it up through the first half," said Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez. "We hope we can continue. We always have new goals to keep us motivated. We just have to go forward game by game."

Malaga upset Real Madrid in December at La Rosaleda and although it started well Sunday, it never recovered from Messi's opener.

The 25-year-old had the first opportunity of the match when Weligton failed to cut out Andres Iniesta's pass and a goal appeared inevitable when Messi went through on goal, but Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero magnificently prevented him from doing so.

The hosts were no shrinking violets and went close through Roque Santa Cruz, who had the ball taken off him at his feet by a scrambling Victor Valdes.

Malaga also looked relatively comfortable at the back but it had all its good work undone when a sloppy backpass from Nacho Camacho was cut out by Messi, who twisted past Caballero and slotted into the net in the 27th minute.

It was harsh luck on Malaga, who nearly fell further behind a minute later but Fabregas' low strike from just outside the area fizzed past the post.

Santa Cruz continued to be a menace at the other end and Valdes was relieved when the Paraguayan striker could only head straight at him from Joaquin's free kick.

But any hopes Manuel Pellegrini had of seeing his side get back into the match took a blow five minutes after halftime courtesy of some more Messi magic.

The forward's inch-perfect chip caught Malaga's defenders flat-footed and Fabregas ran through on goal before sending the ball across Caballero and into the right corner.

The visitors continued to toy with their over-matched opponents, who were helpless to stop Barcelona's third in the 82nd minute.

Thiago, a 73rd-minute replacement for Fabregas, played a one-two with Messi on the edge of the box before slotting low past Caballero.

Malaga did at least get on the scoresheet, with Buonanotte curling delightfully into the top corner with a 20-yard free kick.

Elsewhere, 10-man Deportivo La Coruna drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad, allowing the team to climb out of last place.

Alejandro Bergantinos stole the ball and set up Luis "Pizzi" Afonso to give Deportivo the lead with a chip shot in the 27th. Carlos Vela curled in Sociedad's tying goal one minute before halftime. The hosts failed to capitalize on the dismissal of Evaldo for a second yellow card in the 64th.

Deportivo's draw left Osasuna in last place. Sociedad stayed in ninth place.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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