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Tactics And Analysis
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By ESPN Staff

Barca ease to Malaga scalp

Barcelona maintained their 11-point lead atop the Primera Division after Lionel Messi celebrated winning the Ballon d'Or by inspiring his side to a 3-1 victory at Malaga.

•  Sunday's Euro Gallery Photo Gallery

Messi collected the FIFA honour for an unparalleled fourth time earlier this week and opened the scoring tonight in the 27th minute by cutting out Nacho Camacho's sloppy backpass before twisting past Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero and slotting home.

The Argentinian's delightful chip allowed Cesc Fabregas to run through on goal and pass across Caballero in the 50th minute and he then exchanged a one-two with substitute Thiago, who scored Barca's third with a 20-yard strike late on, before Diego Buonanotte pulled one back in the final minute with a lovely curling free-kick.

It was ultimately a comfortable evening for the Primera Division leaders, although closest challengers Atletico Madrid maintained the gap with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Real Zaragoza at the Vicente Calderon.

After a dominant opening spell, Tiago eventually headed Atleti in front on the half-hour mark as he rose highest to nod home Gabi's corner.

Radamel Falcao then added the second from the penalty spot seven minutes before the break after Arda Turan was brought down by Cristian Sapunaru.

Despite failing to build on their advantage, the hosts comfortably saw out the second period without any major scares to go seven points clear of third-placed Real Madrid.

Real Betis boosted their European hopes as goals from Joel Campbell and Ruben Castro handed them a comfortable 2-0 win over Levante.

Campbell opened the scoring after just seven minutes as he swept home Castro's pass at the end of a flowing counter-attack for just his second Betis goal.

Roger had two decent chances to draw Levante level minutes before and after the break, but he failed to make a proper connection with either attempt and Castro gave the hosts the cushion they needed with a brilliant turn and finish 27 minutes from time.

Relegation-battling Deportivo La Coruna held on for the final 26 minutes with a man less to earn a 1-1 draw from their trip to Real Sociedad.

Depor took a 27th-minute through Luis Pizzi but then found themselves on the back foot after conceding an equaliser to Carlos Vela on the stroke of half-time and then losing defender Evaldo to a red card just after the hour-mark.

However, Sociedad could not make the most of their numerical advantage in the closing stages as Depor made it four points from two games under new coach Domingos Paciencia.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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