La Liga wrap: Messi magic sparks Barca as Falcao scores five
Lionel Messi rewrote the record books to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Betis, while Radamel Falcao scored five goals for Atletico Madrid.
The Argentine etched his name in football history with his 85th and 86th goals for club and country in 2012, breaking the 40-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year set by Gerd Muller in 1972.
Messi's brace put Barcelona two goals up after 25 minutes, but it was far from smooth sailing for the Catalans, who were given a thorough examination by a spirited home side that pulled a goal back through Ruben Castro shortly before the break.
The attacking pressure from Betis saw them create a number of opportunities in the second half, hitting the woodwork twice, but Barca managed to ride their luck and grind out the victory.
The only bad news for Barcelona was the hamstring injury that key midfielder Cesc Fabregas picked up.
Fabregas was withdrawn during the first half and the club has confirmed he will miss up to four weeks of action.
But that was the only sour note for Barcelona, who registered their 14th win in 15 league games, and restored their six-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.
An unbelievable five-goal tally from Falcao contributed to Atletico Madrid’s 6-0 demolition of cellar-dwellers Deportivo La Coruna.
It was Diego Costa who got the ball rolling for the hosts with a goal after 23 minutes but from then on, it was the Falcao show.
The Colombian striker rounded the half off for Atletico with a superb finish through on goal and a stunning volley from the edge of the box into the far corner.
He secured his hat-trick with a penalty just after the hour mark.
Falcao then scored an instinctive striker's goal three minutes later by finishing from a yard out.
His wonderful evening was complete 20 minutes from time when he took advantage of some poor defending for his 16th goal of the La Liga campaign.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Real Mallorca's run of games without a win stretched to 12 on Sunday morning as they were comfortably defeated 4-0 by Levante, while Athletic Bilbao recorded their first win in four games with a narrow 1-0 win over Celta Vigo.