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BC-SOC--Spanish Roundup,1st Ld

March 9, 2019
Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored a penalty and set up another goal as Barcelona came back to beat Rayo Vallecano 3-1 and stay firmly in control of the Spanish league on Saturday.

Messi crossed for Gerard Pique to cancel out an opening goal by Rayo’s Raul de Tomas, then Messi put the hosts ahead at Camp Nou with a spot kick early in the second half.

Luis Suarez tapped in a pass from substitute Ivan Rakitic to put the result beyond doubt with eight minutes remaining.

Barcelona stayed seven points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, which beat Leganes 1-0.

Real Madrid was in distant third place at 15 points adrift before visiting Valladolid on Sunday.

Barcelona hosts Lyon on Wednesday in the Champions League last 16 after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

Messi leads La Liga in goals and assists. He has scored 26 times and made 12 direct passes for teammates to score through 27 rounds.

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