BARCELONA, - Lionel Messi scored his 22nd double of 2012 to reach 90 goals as Barcelona beat closest rival Atletico Madrid 4-1 on Sunday, opening up a nine-point lead and sitting 13 in front of Real Madrid in the Spanish soccer league.
It was Barcelona's league-record 15th victory in 16 rounds and came just after floundering Madrid had conceded in the final minutes to draw 2-2 at home with crosstown rival Espanyol.
Atletico striker Radamel Falcao was brilliant early and opened the scoring in the 31st minute. But Adriano sparked Barcelona's resurgence five minutes later, and Sergio Busquets made it 2-1 before halftime.
Messi put the result beyond doubt in the 57th and had the final word in the 88th minute to prolong his incredible year.
Madrid appeared set to record their seventh straight home win in league play after Cristiano Ronaldo scored to cancel out Sergio Garcia's opener before setting up Fabio Coentrao to put Madrid ahead three minutes after halftime.
But substitute Juan Albin scored off of a poorly-defended corner kick for a share of the points two minutes from time.
The blow to Madrid's already-dwindling title defence hopes came just four days after losing 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie.