Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez (R) celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring against Sevilla during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville March 17, 2012. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

Barca took the lead on 18 minutes through an expertly taken Xavi free-kick, and they doubled their advantage on 25 minutes as Lionel Messi combined with Andres Iniesta, danced through the defence and chipped the ball over Andres Palop.

The victory allowed Barca to close the gap on Real Madrid to seven points ahead of the leaders’ game at home to Champions League hopefuls Malaga on Sunday.

Real Zaragoza were denied three vital points in their bid to escape relegation asOsasuna snatched a 1-1 draw amid late drama at La Romareda.

Helder Postiga thought he had earned the home side, who sit bottom of the table, a vital win when he scored the opening goal with just four minutes to go but Osasuna, who have European ambitions this season, earned a draw when Roversio headed an equaliser with two minutes remaining.

Granada took a giant step towards survival with a 2-1 win over relegation rivals Sporting Gijon.

Carlos Martins gave the hosts a flying start when his free-kick out on the left went through a gaping hole in the Sporting wall, and Guilherme Siqueira made it two before half-time. It could have been worse for Sporting as Dani Benitez struck the bar and Ikechukwu Uche had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside before Adrian Colunga pulled a goal back for the visitors with a fine lob deep into stoppage time.

An Inigo Martinez own goal ten minutes from time was enough to hand Getafe all three points in a tepid 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.

The visitors should have taken the lead after just 12 minutes as a loose ball on the edge of the area fell to Asier Illarramendi but, with goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya out of position, he could only sidefoot the ball wide. Miku then had just as good a chance to put Getafe in front seven minutes before half-time but he also failed to hit the target with just Claudio Bravo to beat.

Both sides had half-chances after the break but neither seemed capable of creating a move worthy of winning the game until Getafe got a bit of luck when Abel Barrada’s cross was punched by Bravo into Martinez’s midriff and the ball rebounded into the empty net.

Rayo Vallecano continued their rise up the standings with a one-sided 3-0 victory at home to Real Betis.

Goals by Emiliano Armenteros, Diego Costa and Raul Tamudo secured a fifth win in seven matches as Rayo climbed into eighth place in the standings.

Defeat for Betis extends their winless streak to four games and leaves them down in 16th place, just six points above the relegation zone.



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