After enduring a slump of consecutive 1-1 draws, Barcelona bounced back to familiar form on Sunday.
Despite using players who had seen a limited amount of action, La Liga's leaders rolled to a dominating 6-1 home victory over Getafe as Argentine maestro Lionel Messi continued his amazing streak of scoring in 13 successive matches.
Chilean international striker Alexis Sanchez and Spain international David Villa took advantage of their rare starts by each scoring a goal. Gerard Pique and second-half substitute Cristian Tello also tallied in the rare midday match.
The win lifted Barca (20-1-2, 62 points), to a 12-point advantage over Atletico Madrid (16-4-2, 50), which dropped a 2-1 decision at Rayo Vallecano. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao scored for Atletico five minutes into second-half stoppage time.
Iniesta, who also assisted on a goal, said it was “a great morning for football. It was spectacular.”
Assistant manager Jordi Roura, running the show while head coach Tito Vilanova recovers from throat surgery, decided to rest some of the regulars and Barca never missed a beat before a capacity crowd of 85,610 at Camp Nou.
“The players were at an extraordinary level," he said. "They were intense from the first minute."
Added Pique: “We have a very complete team. A few players that don’t usually enjoy a lot of minutes [on the pitch] got to play today and they proved that they are at a good level. This gives us tranquility.”
Sanchez lifted the hosts to a sixth-minute lead and Messi doubled the advantage seven minutes later. Messi, who has 35 goals in the league and 46 in all competitions this season, scored his 299th for Barcelona in all competitions.
It wasn't until the 58th minute that Barca tallied again, this time behind Villa. Messi set up Tello in the 79th before Alvaro Vazquez pulled one back for the visitors four minutes later. Relentless Barcelona struck in the 90th minute and Pique closed things out two minutes into stoppage time.
About the only down note of Real Madrid's 4-1 win over Sevilla was a red card to the Argentine star in the 66th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo recorded a natural hat-trick, scoring in the 26th, 46th and 59th minutes. Real (14-5-4, 48), which trails Barca by 12 points, will face Manchester United in the first leg of a round of 16 game in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Moreno, a Mexican international midfielder, sparked Espanyol to a 4-0 road win at Athletic Bilbao. He scored in the 28th minute to give Espanyol a 1-0 lead.
Nelson Haedo Valdez
Only minutes after he came on as a substitute, the Paraguayan scored three minutes into stoppage time as visiting Valencia edged Celta Vigo, 1-0. Joao Periera floated a cross to the back post to Valdez, who headed home the game-winner.
The Spaniard struck in the 35rd minute to lift visiting Arsenal to a 1-0 win over Sunderland.
Michu, Angel Rangel
A pair of Spanish players found the back of the net in Swansea City's 4-1 demolition of Queens Park Rangers. Michu, a striker who has 15 goals, tallied in the eighth and 67th minutes while Rangel, a right fullback, scored in the 18th.
Ruiz, who produced a spectacular 11th-hour bicycle kick to give Costa Rica a 2-2 tie at Panama in World Cup qualifying Wednesday, could not duplicate his efforts for Fulham. He failed to score for its scoreless draw at Norwich City. Ruiz' best opportunity came early in the second half as his volley from outside the penalty area was blocked by Norwich's Sebastien Bassong.
Milito gave Inter Milan a much-needed insurance goal as the Argentine scored in the 50th minute of a 3-1 home victory over Chievo Verona.
Hugo Armando Campagnaro, Edinson Cavani
Campagnaro saved Napoli from a shutout loss as the Argentine defender volleyed home a corner kick in the 87th minute in a 1-1 draw at Lazio. Cavani, a Uruguayan, almost scored the equalizer in the 38th minute, but he headed the ball off the crossbar.
Facundo Roncaglia, Arturo Vidal
Roncaglia, an Argentine midfielder, did not clear the ball well and Mirko Vucinic took advantage by scoring the first goal in the 20th minute of first-place Juventus' 2-0 win over Napoli. Vidal, a Chilean defensive midfielder, evaded four players before feeding Alessandro Matri in the 41st minute.
The Argentine midfielder gave Udinese all the scoring it needed with a seventh-minute strike in its 1-0 home victory past Torino.
Marcelo Estigarribia, Mauro Icardi, Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo
Estigarribia, a Paraguayan midfielder, connected for Sampdoria's first goal and 19-year-old Argentinean Icardi added the final score in the 77th minute in Sampdoria's 3-1 home triumph over AS Roma. Lamela, an Argentine attacking midfielder, pulled one back for the visitors off a volley in the 75th minute, six minutes after countryman Pablo Osvaldo was missed a penalty kick. Osvaldo was fouled on the preceding play and insisted on taking the PK although Franesco Totti, who usually takes it, protested. Osvaldo's effort was a weak one as goalkeeper Sergio Romero had a relatively easy save.
Lavezzi, an Argentinean who was a second-half substitute, put the finishing touches on Paris St Germain's 3-1 home triumph past Bastia with an 89th-minute goal. He scored after a cross by Jeremy Menez was deflected in front of him.
Ochoa, who is Mexican, made sure Ricardo Faty’s 31st-minute goal stood up with some stellar goalkeeping to boost A.C. Ajaccio to a 1-0 home win over Bordeaux. Ochoa, who was credited with five saves, stopped Julien Faubert before he stopped Ludovic Obraniak’s shot that was headed toward the top corner of the net. He continued to put on a dazzling show in the second half. He saved a David Bellion and denied substitute Nicolas Maurice-Belay three times.
Juan Roman Riquelme
The former Argentine international has returned to Boca Juniors seven months after walking out on the club after he had differences with former coach Julio Cesar Falcioni. He is expected to officially rejoin the team on Monday. Riquelme, 34, quit Boca when it lost the South American Libertadores Cup final to Corinthians (Brazil) disagreeing with Falcioni's tactics. Falcioni's contract was not renewed at the end of the fall championship in December, paving the way for the return of the team’s most successful coach, Carlos Bianchi.
Sanchez, an Argentinean, signed with the Columbus Crew. The 25-year-old midfielder played with Estudiantes from 2008-2012. He has made 14 appearances for Argentina's Under-20 national side, helping the team win the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007.
Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.