November 03, 2012

MADRID (AP) -- Barcelona's 3-1 home win over Celta Vigo on Saturday marked the Catalan club's best start to the Spanish league in its 113-year history.

Its ninth win through 10 rounds maintained an eight-point gap over defending champion Real Madrid, which beat Zaragoza 4-0 at home.

Barcelona's previous best start came under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal in 1997 when it had eight wins and a draw before losing its first match.

Adriano and David Villa scored in the 21st and 26th minutes to give Barcelona a 2-1 advantage by halftime, with Mario Bermejo netting for Celta in the 24th.

Villa played Jordi Alba clear to put the result beyond doubt in the 61st.

Also, undefeated Atletico Madrid looked to retain its share of the league lead with a ninth straight win at Valencia.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who became a father for the first time on Friday to a baby boy, paraded his Golden Boot trophy for the top scorer in Europe's domestic leagues last season before the game.

Celta packed its box and looked to counterattack against a Barcelona defense still missing injured first-choice center backs Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, and striker Iago Aspas had a golden opportunity early but couldn't better Victor Valdes one-on-one.

Barcelona went ahead when Adriano played Pedro Rodriguez wide for the winger to charge forward and cross back to the Brazilian defender who volleyed past goalkeeper Javi Varas.

But Celta hit right back as forward Mario Bermejo pushed in a rebound of Alex Lopez's initial strike saved by Valdes, to cap a move triggered by an incisive long pass from Michael Krohn-Dehli.

The flurry of goals continued as Villa and Andres Iniesta quickly dampened Celta's euphoria two minutes later. The Spain striker played Iniesta through with a deft back-heeled pass and moved into position to fire in Iniesta's assist.

Messi, usually so deadly when given even half a chance, uncharacteristically failed to get off a shot when he stole the ball and had only Varas to beat just before halftime. Messi was unable to add to his league-leading 13 goals.

Aspas again sent shudders through the Camp Nou crowd with a twisting shot from almost no angle 30 second into the second half, but Villa cued Barca's decisive goal with a second exquisite back-heeled flick to send Alba clear to dribble past Varas and roll the ball in.

Madrid won thanks to goals by Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, Michael Essien and Luka Modric.

Higuain pounced on a save that Zaragoza goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez could not hang onto in the 23rd minute.

Two minutes later Di Maria did the same to the hapless Jimenez.

The match began with a minute's silence to honor four young women who died in Madrid in a Halloween night stampede while at a large dance party hosted by popular American DJ Steve Aoki.

Modric was aggressive while chasing balls in midfield until a rash challenge earned Madrid's Croatia star a yellow card in the 37th.

A powerful shot by midfielder Victor Rodriguez forced a flying save by Casillas in the upper left of goal in the 58th.

Midfielder Antonio Apono was unlucky not to score in the 66th when he hit the crossbar from long range.

Bad luck continued when Helder Postiga had a perfectly legal goal disallowed for offside in the 69th after a skillful display of ball control.

Abraham Minero kept the pressure up and caused panic in Madrid's defense as he lined up a shot in the 82nd only to fire over the crossbar.

Ronaldo almost scored three minutes later when his fiercely struck free kick bent Jimenez's upraised hand back only to then bounce off the top of the crossbar.

Essien scored Madrid's third in the 90th and Modric added the last in injury time.

Malaga suffered just its second loss in 16 games in all competitions when Francisco "Piti'' Medina scored twice to give Rayo Vallecano a 2-1 win at La Rosaleda Stadium.

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