Barcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga at the Nou Camp on Saturday night with a 2-0 success over rock-bottom club Deportivo La Coruna.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi ensured that the defending champions stayed well on course for the title whilst at the same time condemning the seemingly doomed visitors to their 16th defeat of the 2012/13 campaign.
Attentions were understandably mixed for coach Tito Villanova going into the fixture with a make or break Champions League second leg tie against AC Milan looming large – and the likes of Messi and Iniesta were left on the substitute’s bench as widely anticipated prior to kick-off.
The changes mattered little however as Barca dominated from the first whistle – and they should have been in front well before Sanchez finally broke the deadlock after 38 minutes, the Chilean latching onto a cross from full back Dani Alves to give La Coruna keeper Daniel Aranzubia no chance.
It was comfortably rather than classy for the hosts during the majority of the second period but they put the result beyond any reasonable doubt with three minutes remaining as Messi struck for the 40th time this season.
Barca are now 14 points clear once again at the summit following Atletico Madrid’s disappointing 0-1 loss at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday evening – Xabi Prieto’s 53rd minute effort gave Phillipe Montaniers’ men all three points to keep them in contention for a surprise European berth.
Depor meanwhile remain eight points adrift of safety and must surely now need a minor miracle to stay in the top flight.
Conversely, Real Mallorca did their survival chances no harm on Saturday night with a superb 2-1 victory against Sevilla at the Iberostar Stadium.
A brace from Alejandro Alfaro gave Gregorio Manzanos’ side their second La Liga win on the bounce although the gloss was slightly removed from the result in injury time when Javi Marquez was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
19th placed Celta Vigo are directly below Mallorca in the table but were a shade unfortunate to walk away from their home fixture against Real Madrid empty handed on Sunday tea-time.
Iago Aspas cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s 61st minute opener just moments later but it was not enough to secure a point for Abel Resino’s strugglers who succumbed to a second strike from the Portuguese star 18 minutes from time.
Real Betis grabbed the first three points of the weekend in the Friday night kick-off at home to Osasuna, goals from Jorge Molina and Ruben Castro giving Beticos a vital 2-1triumph to keep up the heat on fourth placed Malaga who could only draw away at Valladolid on Saturday afternoon.
Elsewhere, there were home wins for Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Bilbao over Espanyol (2-0) and Valencia (1-0) respectively, whilst Levante and Getafe played out a goalless draw on the east coast.
The weekend’s action reaches a conclusion on Monday night at La Romareda as Granada make the trip to face Real Zaragoza on the back of three consecutive defeats.
With the two sides sitting perilously close to danger in 16th and 17th, a tough encounter looks well on the cards and both teams are sure to be all out to secure a three point haul which would bring much confidence and relief heading into the final weeks of the season.