Spain: Messi scores in Barcelona win, Malaga comes up empty
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Lionel Messi extended his Spanish league record by scoring in 17 straight games to cap Barcelona's 2-0 win over last-place Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday as it prepared for its decisive Champions League last-16 match against AC Milan.
Messi rested on the Camp Nou bench with several other first-choice players before going on in the second half and scoring two minutes from time to double Barcelona's lead after Alexis Sanchez opened in the 38th.
It was Messi's league-leading 40th goal of the season and 51st overall.
Barcelona hosts Milan on Tuesday facing the daunting challenge of overturning a 2-0 loss in their first meeting to keep alive its bid for a fourth European title in eight seasons.
Barcelona provisionally extended its league lead to 14 points.
Meanwhile, Malaga's winless run reached four straight games with a 1-1 draw at Valladolid as it continues to sputter before its critical Champions League last-16 match against FC Porto.
With one eye on Wednesday's game against Porto when it must overturn a 1-0 loss, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini left regular starters Francisco "Isco'' Alarcon and Joaquin Sanchez on the bench, while midfielder Jeremy Toulalan was not on the squad.
Defender Martin Demichelis picked up the slack by nodding Lucas Piazon's free kick off the turf and into the net to open in the eighth minute.
Valladolid leveled through Manucho's header from a lobbed pass by Alvaro Rubio four minutes before halftime, and neither side could get the winner, even with Isco going on for Malaga for the last 20 minutes.
Malaga remained in fourth place, but opened the door for Valencia to grab control of the final Champions League spot if it beats Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Promoted Valladolid, for its part, stayed safely in the middle of the table after losing just once in its last six games.
Later, Mallorca hosts Sevilla.
Elsewhere, Rayo Vallecano beat visiting Espanyol 2-0 as the Madrid minnow stayed in the fight for a Europa League berth.
Forward Alejandro "Chori'' Dominguez used his knee to volley home a cross from Leo Baptistao to open for the hosts in the ninth.
Espanyol reinforced its attack with Joan Verdu and Wakaso Mubarak at halftime and threatened to draw until Rayo's Francisco "Piti'' Medina beat goalkeeper Kiko Casillas to a ball outside the area and rolled it into the net in the 77th. It was his 11th goal of the season.
Rayo's first win in four rounds left it just one point out of sixth place and Spain's last Europa League spot. Espanyol is nine points above the drop zone.