Lionel Messi scores 50th goal

Updated: April 23, 2011, 7:26 PM ET
Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi became the first player in Spain to score 50 goals in a club season, helping Barcelona rebound from its loss to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final with a 2-0 victory over Osasuna on Saturday night.

Barcelona rested most regular starters in preparation for Wednesday's first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid -- the third of four matches between the rivals in an 18-day span.

[+] EnlargeLionel Messi
Josep Lago/AFP/Getty ImagesLionel Messi became the first player in Spain to score 50 goals in a club season during Barcelona's 2-0 win Saturday.

David Villa scored his 18th goal -- and first in 12 games -- in the 24th minute. Messi replaced Villa in the 58th and rolled home his league-leading 31st goal with three minutes left. With 177 goals for Barcelona in all competitions, Messi is one behind Josep Samitier for third place on the Barcelona career scoring list, trailing Cesar Rodriguez (235) and Laszlo Kubala (196).

Seeking its third straight La Liga title, Barcelona extended its league unbeaten streak to 31 games and maintained an eight-point lead over second-place Real Madrid with five games remaining.

Three days after hoisting its 18th domestic cup and first trophy in nearly three years with a 1-0 overtime victory over Barcelona, Real Madrid returned to the Mestalla Stadium and routed Valencia 6-3.

Gonzalo Higuain scored three goals, Kaka two and Karim Benzema one as Madrid became the first visiting team to score six goals at the Mestalla. Roberto Soldado, Jonas and Jordi Alba scored for Valencia.

In the late game, Athletic Bilbao defeated Real Socidead 2-1.

England

LONDON -- American goalkeeper Tim Howard's best efforts could not prevent Everton from slipping to a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United that edged Alex Ferguson's team close to a record 19th English title.

Howard made a string of great saves, but was beaten in the 84th minute when Mexico striker Javier Hernandez went high to head the winner at the far post.

The result at Old Trafford left the Red Devils needing seven points in the last four games to guarantee the title.

"The way we're going about our business gives us an outstanding chance," Ferguson said. "There's a winning attitude about the team and a real determination. They refuse to give in."

Chelsea stayed six points behind the leaders by blanking West Ham 3-0 at a rain-swept Stamford Bridge, with Fernando Torres ending his long scoring drought with the team's second goal.

It was the Spanish striker's first goal since his $81 million move to Chelsea from Liverpool on Jan. 31.

"After 14 games waiting for my first goal, that was not what I expected when I signed," Torres said. "I want to thank all my teammates. There will be less pressure for me now."

Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda scored Chelsea's other goals.

Arsenal, which visits Bolton on Sunday, is another three points behind.

Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez scored a hat trick for sixth-place Liverpool in its 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham at Anfield, moving the team three points behind Tottenham, which missed a chance to leapfrog Manchester City into fourth by being held to a 2-2 draw by West Bromwich Albion.

Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt -- with his seventh goal in the past six league matches -- and substitute Joe Cole also scored for Liverpool, which is even with United with 18 English titles.

Simon Cox denied Spurs all three points at White Hart Lane with an 81st-minute equalizer for West Brom after Jermain Defoe had put the hosts ahead with his 100th Premier League goal.

Also, Wolverhampton moved out of the bottom, ahead of West Ham, with a 1-1 home draw against Fulham and Wigan dropped into the relegation zone by losing 4-2 at Sunderland.

England striker Darren Bent's 15th goal of the season earned Aston Villa a 1-1 draw with FA Cup finalist Stoke, which went ahead through Kenwyne Jones.

Italy

MILAN -- Robinho scored in the 82nd minute, and AC Milan won 1-0 at Brescia to take an eight-point Serie A lead with four games remaining. AC Milan is closing in on its first league title since 2004.

Inter Milan moved back into second place, overcoming the ejection of goalkeeper Julio Cesar to beat Lazio 2-1.

Cesar was dismissed for bringing down Mauro Zarate midway through the first half. Zarate converted the 24th-minute penalty kick, before Inter rallied on goals by Wesley Sneijder in the 40th and Samuel Eto'o in the 53rd -- Eto'o's 20th league goal of the season and 33rd overall. Lazio also finished the game with 10 men after captain Stefano Mauri received a straight red card for tripping Yuto Nagatomo in the 66th

Napoli dropped to third with a 2-1 loss at Palermo. Edinson Cavani put Napoli ahead in the second minute with a penalty kick, tying Udinese's Antonio Di Natale for the Serie A scoring lead with 26 goals. Federico Balzaretti tied it in the 38th and Cesare Bovo converted a go-ahead penalty kick in the 45th.

Juventus was held to a 2-2 tie by visiting Catania. Alessandro Del Piero scored twice for Juventus in the first half, but goals by Alejandro Gomez and Francesco Lodi in the second rallied Catania.

Also, it was: Bari 0, Sampdoria 1; Bologna 0, Cesena 2; Cagliari 1, Fiorentina 2; Genoa 4, Lecce 2; and Udinese 0, Parma 2.

Germany

BERLIN -- Bayer Leverkusen kept the Bundesliga title race alive for another week by beating Hoffenheim 2-1.

Had Leverkusen dropped points, league leader Borussia Dortmund could have sealed the title with a win against Borussia Moenchengladbach in the late game.

Arturo Vidal capitalized on a defensive mix-up to score the winner in the 51st minute for Leverkusen. Gylfi Thor Sigurdsson gave Hoffenheim the lead in the 28th, then Michal Kadlec equalized for Leverkusen in the 40th.

Bayern Munich salvaged a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to Mario Gomez's last-minute penalty. Sebastian Rode scored for Frankfurt in the 54th.

Also, Schalke -- with one eye on Tuesday's Champions League semifinal against Manchester United -- lost 1-0 at home to Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen won 3-1 at St. Pauli, and Stuttgart beat Hamburger SV 3-0 at home.

With three games left to play, Munich drops to fourth, one point behind Hannover in the contest for a Champions League playoff place.

France

SAINT-DENIS, France -- Defender Taye Taiwo scored with a low shot in the 80th minute, and Marseille beat Montpellier 1-0 to win its second straight League Cup.

Marseille, which trails league leader Lille by one point with seven games left, can repeat the domestic double it achieved last season.

Marseille midfielder Stephane M'Bia injured his groin in the seventh minute and was replaced by Charles Kabore.

Scotland

GLASGOW, Scotland -- Dundee United narrowed the gap to third-place Hearts to seven points with a 4-2 win over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League.

Striker David Goodwillie scored twice while Scott Severin and Craig Conway also got on the scoresheet for United.

Hearts at one time held a 15-point cushion in third, but dropped two more points by surrendering a three-goal lead against Motherwell to draw 3-3.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press