Barcelona wins before AC Milan clash
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 Coruña 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.
Jose Pinto had a quiet night in goal after stepping in to replace Victor Valdes, who was serving the first of a four-match ban for protesting after the finish of Barcelona's 2-1 loss at Real Madrid last weekend.
Even with the lineup shuffle, the 51-point gap separating the two sides at the start of the game was evident as Barcelona dominated possession and Deportivo failed to get a shot on goal through 90 minutes.
Only Daniel Aranzubia's inspired goalkeeping kept Deportivo alive as Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara and young forward Cristian Tello poked holes in his team's defense.
Alexis finally broke through when Deportivo left him unmarked to turn Dani Alves' cross home with a bouncing header that Aranzubia got a hand on but couldn't keep out of his net.
The Camp Nou crowd cheered as Messi began warming up early in the second half, and the applause grew when he went on in the 62nd. Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets joined him later.
Just when the nerves among the home fans began to fray with Deportivo showing signs of life, Messi put everyone at ease by gliding across the edge of the box before combining with Alexis, who returned the ball from the wing for the cutting Messi to deftly flip it over Aranzubia.
Deportivo is a shell of the side that pushed Barcelona before succumbing to a 5-4 loss earlier this season. The Galician club appears doomed to be relegated after just emerging from one season in the second division eight points from safety with 11 rounds to go. It is the only team in Spain's topflight division to have not won away from home this campaign.
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 La Liga lead to 14 points.