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October 04, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Record-chasing Lionel Messi and Neymar scored as Spanish league leader Barcelona eased to a 2-0 win at nine-man Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Messi chipped goalkeeper Antonio "Tono" Rodriguez in the 35th minute for his 249th league goal, leaving him two behind the all-time scoring record held by Telmo Zarra since 1955.

A minute later Neymar added his seventh league goal in as many rounds.

Rayo was spared a larger defeat thanks to Barcelona not exploiting its chances despite the hosts finishing two men down after Jorge Morcillo and Javier Aquino received their second bookings.

While Messi will have to wait for his own landmark, Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo broke a league record that had stood since 1977 for not conceding a goal through the first seven rounds.

Barcelona's sixth win, to go with one draw, left it two points ahead of Valencia after it beat Atletico Madrid 3-1.

Atletico's first league loss this season left the defending champion five points adrift of Barcelona and provisionally in third. Sevilla, Real Madrid and Celta Vigo can all pass it with wins on Sunday.

Bravo needed to protect his goal for 20 minutes to break the record set by former Barcelona goalkeeper Pedro Artola, but he had to get low to stop Alberto Bueno from scoring in the eighth.

Rayo coach Paco Jemez insists on an attacking style and a pressing defense, so it seemed only a matter of time before Barcelona took advantage of Rayo's high defensive line.

And moments after Messi had a goal annulled for offside, the Argentina forward broke through when he ran onto Gerard Pique's long ball, held off his marker and used his left foot to lift the ball over Tono.

Neymar then got his goal when Munir El Haddadi won another long pass from Sergio Busquets and set up the Brazil striker to slot the ball inside the post.

Jemez pulled one center back at halftime to add Manucho up front, and Rayo lost its second center back, Morcillo, to a second booking in the 60th.

But Barcelona had to settle for the comfortable win instead of the rout after Messi missed a series of late chances.

Aquino, who went on in the second half, was sent off in stoppage time for an aggressive tackle on Busquets.

Valencia stunned Atletico Madrid with three goals in the first 13 minutes before holding on to win at Mestalla Stadium.

"We have beaten a great team, the defending champions, but it only means three more points," said Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo.

In the runup to the game, Espirito Santo and his players criticized what they considered Atletico's physical, intimidating style of play.

But it was Valencia that was the aggressor with 22 fouls to Atletico's 14, and its attack was quick to pounce on Atletico after Miranda gifted away the opener in the sixth by heading a harmless long pass into his own goal.

Andre Gomes took advantage of Atletico's disconcerted defense a minute later when he dribbled by Miranda to drill a shot under Moya.

Valencia kept up the pressure, and defender Nicolas Otamendi charged in to score with a powerful header from a corner kick that Paco Alcacer forced Miranda to concede with another incursion in the area.

Once Atletico gathered itself, the titleholder pushed the action into Valencia's half and got one back when Mario Mandzukic headed in a rebound from a long strike by Tiago Cardoso that Alves knocked back in front of his goal.

Atletico had a perfect chance to reduce the deficit in the 44th when Valencia's Jose Gaya handled a cross, but Diego Alves easily saved Siqueira's poorly taken spot kick.

Atletico substitute Alessio Cerci was sent off in injury time with his second booking after handling the ball.

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