Lionel Messi scored twice to help La Liga leaders Barcelona stroll to a resounding win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night, as coach Tito Vilanova recorded the best start for a first-year coach in the 113-year history of the Catalan club. Barça’s magnificent start to the season continued with a comprehensive win in Vallecas to make it eight wins and a draw from their first nine games in La Liga. Goals from Villa, Messi (2), Xavi and Cesc saw Barça through after a pretty well balanced start, which really tilted the visitors’ way after the second goal, as Tito’s men took advantage of Rayo’s advanced back line.
Barca, with midfielder Sergio Busquets and fullback Adriano Correia deputising in central defence, were under a lot of pressure from hard-running Rayo before taking control in Vallecas. Cesc Fábregas set up David Villa's 20th-minute opener to set Barcelona on their way. Messi scored his 16th and 17th goals in all competitions – to take his career tally to 301 – in a second half that also saw Xavi Hernández and Fábregas find the net.
In the second half, Barça came out determined to put the game to bed and after just two minutes Messi rounded off a brilliant team move which saw Pedro beat two defenders and lay the ball off for Montoya who set up the world number one to fire home for the second. Barcelona's eighth win in their first nine games maintained their unbeaten start to the season and lifted them three points ahead of second-placed Atlético Madrid before Atlético's game against the bottom club Osasuna on Sunday.
The no-nonsense win also kept up the pressure on Real Madrid by opening up an 11-point gap before the defending champion's tough test at Mallorca. "We are delighted for Lionel," Vilanova told a news conference. "He has scored a couple of goals but I prefer to remember the moment when he ran 30 metres to help out in defence in the 89th minute. I love the goals, but I like this more." Fabregas told Spanish television: "It's a difficult ground, with spectacular fans. They pressure you and don't let you breathe. But we played a serious game, perhaps the best of the season so far.
"This was our best game of the season,'' Fabregas said. Messi's two strikes, the first an unstoppable blast from the edge of the box, the second a showcase of fancy footwork to undo the defense, took his league leading tally to 13 goals, four more than Atletico's Radamel Falcao and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi has 73 goals for club and country in 2012, leaving him two shy of matching Brazil great Pele's milestone of 75 in 1958. "Scoring two more goals isn't important, the important thing is that we have another win and we believe we can keep this up,'' said Messi, who on Monday will receive the Golden Shoe award for Europe's top scorer last season with an unprecedented 73 goals.
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