BARCELONA: Spanish champions Barcelona gave not given up in the title chase despite being a distance behind Real Madrid – as they proved with a 2-0 win over Sevilla thanks to a Xavi free kick and delicate chip from Lionel Messi.
Xavi bent his shot over the defensive in the 19th minute and World Player of the Year Messi added his 31st in the league before half-time to climax a move he had initiated in midfield.
Barcelona thus moved to within seven points of Madrid thought Jose Mourinho team, on 70 points, can restore their 10-point advantage on Sunday if they can beat fourth-placed Malaga at the Estadio Bernabeu.
Defender Gerard Pique, a subject of controversy this week over his Barcelona future, said: “We played very well in the first half. We could have scored more goals but the second half was a different story. At least Real go out knowing we are there behind them and still in the fight.”
In France Christophe Jallet grabbed a last-minute goal to help Paris Saint-Germain retain their league lead with a 2-2 draw at Caen. Jallet chested down a Jeremy Menez cross and volleyed home to put PSG on 59 points from 28 matches. They are unbeaten in all competitions since coach Carlo Ancelotti took over from Antoine Kombouare in December and lead the table by two points since rivals Montpellier lost 1-0 to Nancy after having Vitorino Hilton and Benjamin Stambouli sent off.
In Germany Bayern Munich extended their goal-scoring jamboree by winning 6-0 away to Hertha in Berlin – with three goals coming from penalties. Dutch winger Arjen Robben scored a hat-trick as Bayern took their tally to 20 goals in three matches after previous victories of 7-1 over Hoffenheim 7-1 in the Bundesliga and 7-0 over Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday. Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez – taking his own total to eight in three games – shared the other goals.
Sports director Christian Nerlinger said: “That was a very impressive performance right from the opening seconds. The team played outstanding football on a difficult pitch.”
Bayern thus kept up the pressure on leaders Borussia Dortmund, who beat Werder Bremen 1-0 with an early Shinji Kagawa strike, while Hamburg”s relegation worries increased with a 3-1 home defeat by fellow strugglers Freiburg. Kagawa scored his ninth goal of the season as Dortmund, who also hit the woodwork twice in the first half, extended their unbeaten Bundesliga run to a club record 20 games.
In Italy Juventus ended their run of four successive Serie A draws with an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Fiorentina, who played for more than one hour with 10 men. Still unbeaten this season, second-placed Juventus stayed four points behind AC Milan after the leaders won 2-0 at Parma with a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty and a brilliant solo goal by Urby Emanuelson. Milan brought on veteran midfielder Gennaro Gattuso late in the game for his first appearance since suffering an eye problem last September. Owner Silvio Berlusconi was in the crowd for Milan’s fourth successive away win.