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Mar 9, 2013

Lionel Messi extends goal streak to 17

Barcelona made a lot of changes ahead of next week's Champions League clash with AC Milan but still picked up a comfortable 2-0 La Liga win over Deportivo La Coruna at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta were among those excused from duty against the league's bottom side, but the reserves enjoyed near total dominance in the first period -- the only surprise being that Alexis Sanchez's 38th-minute goal was all Barca had to show for it.

Messi and Iniesta were sent on to close out the victory in the second half and combined for the second goal, a superb Messi finish for his 40th league goal of the season.

The first half was just as one sided as it was expected to be, but Barca missed a glut of chances before the opener arrived.

Dani Alves had the first good sight of goal in the 12th minute, drilling hard but straight at Daniel Aranzubia from a tight angle.

Two minutes later, Cesc Fabregas sprung the offside trap and took down Alves' chipped through ball, only to blaze over.

Thiago Alcantara's defense-splitting pass then gave Cristian Tello a fine opportunity, but Aranzubia smothered the forward after he took a touch.

Alexandre Gama hassled Alexis enough to prevent him from tapping in Tello's square ball after 21 minutes and Aranzubia followed up with a wonderful save.

Villa was the man denied after he attempted to psych out the keeper in a one-on-one, only to see him stand tall and beat away a belated shot. Fabregas blasted the loose ball over.

The breakthrough goal finally came in the 38th minute, with Alves crossing to an unmarked Alexis eight yards from goal.

His header was almost saved again by Aranzubia, but any debate about whether it had crossed the line was rendered moot when the Chilean followed up and launched the ball into the roof of the net.

The lead might have been two at the break had Villa not shot wastefully from a good position.

Barca was unusually flat for the 20 minutes after the restart, its play lacking all the momentum it had shown before the interval.

Mindful, perhaps, of letting the relegation strugglers back in, the home side sent for Messi and Iniesta within the space of four minutes.

The pair almost fashioned a second goal in the 74th minute when Iniesta fired in a slow, skiddy shot that was spilled by the goalkeeper and thrashed home by the Balon d'Or winner. His celebrations were cut short by an offside flag, though.

Messi then fluffed a shot from eight yards out, but made amends two minutes before the close.

Iniesta set the move in motion with a quick shift of gears in midfield, Messi exchanged a one-two with Sanchez and then nonchalantly flicked over Aranzubia to continue a scoring streak that contains his last 17 La Liga matches.

Also Saturday, Malaga failed to take the maximum points off Valladolid at the Jose Zorrilla stadium, and the 1-1 draw could see it slip out of the Champions League places by the end of the weekend.

Manuel Pellegrini fielded an under-strength side, presumably with the club's Champions League last-16 second-leg match with Porto on Wednesday in mind, resting Isco and Joaquin.

His team got off to a great start when Martin Demichelis headed Malaga into the lead after eight minutes, but Manucho equalized for the hosts shortly before half-time.

Alejandro Alfaro gave Real Mallorca's survival hopes another boost as his two goals helped see off Sevilla 2-1.

A week after he scored his first league goal of the season as Mallorca came from behind to win at Granada, the forward netted in each half to move his side up to third bottom, just one point from safety.

Alvaro Negredo briefly levelled for Sevilla just after the hour mark, but, with the lively Giovani Dos Santos causing plenty of problems, the hosts fully deserved their win.

They finished the match with 10 men after the sending off of Javi Marquez for a second yellow card in the third minute of stoppage time, but by then the work was done.

Rayo Vallecano moved to within two points of the Champions League places after a convincing 2-0 win at home to Espanyol.

An early goal by Chori Dominguez gave the Madrid-based side the perfect start and Piti wrapped up the points by netting after 77 minutes.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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