Messi ends year with 91 goals; Casillas benched


Associated Press

Posted on December 23, 2012 at 8:04 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 23 at 8:04 AM

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi polished off his record year with his 91st and final goal of 2012 in Barcelona's 3-1 win at Valladolid on Saturday night, while Jose Mourinho's decision to bench goalkeeper Iker Casillas backfired as Real Madrid lost 3-2 at Malaga and fell 16 points off the pace in the Spanish league.

Messi fed Jordi Alba, who crossed to Xavi Hernandez for the first goal in the 43rd minute, and Messi dribbling between a defender's legs before scoring in the 59th, his 35th goal of the 2012-13 season.

Expected to win his fourth FIFA Player of the Year award next month, Messi finished 2012 with 79 goals for Barcelona: 59 in the Spanish league, 13 in the Champions League, five in the Copa del Rey and two in the Spanish Super Cup. He had 12 for Argentina: five in World Cup qualifiers and seven in exhibition games.

Messi broke Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany.

Players from both teams wore T-shirts before the game with messages of support for Barcelona coach Vilanova, who had throat surgery Thursday for the second time in two years to remove a second tumor from a saliva gland.

Barcelona (16-0-1) holds a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid (13-3-1) and dropped defending champion Real Madrid (10-4-3) to its biggest deficit in more than a decade.

"The difference with the leader is insurmountable," Mourinho said.

Barcelona was coached by assistant Jordi Roura. Vilanova being released from a hospital just moments before the game and is expected to undergo about six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.

"This win is for Tito," Barcelona defender Dani Alves said. "It's a surprise and joy that he is home now. We are here to help him any way he can. Football is secondary now, he is fighting for his life."

At Malaga, Mourinho made the startling decision to bench Casillas, voted best goalkeeper in the world by players in each of the last four seasons, and start Adan Garrido. Madrid's captain, Casillas had started 53 of Real's last 54 league games, all but the finale last season after the title had been clinched.

"We hadn't been playing well in different aspects of the game, including defense," Mourinho said. "My opinion is the one that matters. I analyzed the players I had available and picked the team to play. You can invent the story you want, but it is a purely technical decision and nothing more."

Casillas' mood in Madrid's dugout at La Rosaleda stadium went from glum to nervous and finally anguished. At one point he zipped his sweat shirt up to hide half his face.

"It surprised us; Iker is our captain," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said.

Francisco "Isco" Alarcon put fourth-place Malaga (9-4-4) ahead in the 49th, and Madrid tied the score on Sergio Sanchez's own goal in the 66th. Substitute Roque Santa Cruz scored in the 72nd and 76th minutes, the first goal a tap-in after Adan failed to stop a cross. Karim Benzema scored for Madrid in the 82nd.

Real Madrid is 16 points back for the first time since Dec. 19, 1999, according to STATS LLC.

"Fear for my job?" Mourinho said. "I have never feared for my job."


LONDON (AP) — Gareth Barry scored in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, giving second-place Manchester City a 1-0 win over last-place Reading in the Premier League.

Barry rose over Nicky Shorey to head in David Silva's cross.

"It's more important to score early on in games," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "My heart is not strong for these late goals."

City (11-1-6) is three points behind United (14-3), which plays at Swansea on Sunday.

Arsenal (8-4-6) won its third straight league game, moving into third place with a 1-0 victory at Wigan on Mikel Arteta's 60th-minute penalty kick. The Gunners are ahead of Everton, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion on goal difference.

Everton rallied for a 2-1 win at West Ham on goals by Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar after Carlton Cole put the hosts ahead. Cole and Everton's Darron Gibson both received red cards.

Tottenham, missing injured American midfielder Clint Dempsey, was held to a 0-0 tie by Stoke. West Brom came from behind to defeat Norwich 2-1 on goals by Zoltan Gera and Romelu Lukaku after Robert Snodgrass had put the visitors ahead.

Seventh-place Chelsea can return to third with a victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.

In the relegation fight, Queens Park Rangers is five points behind Wigan but a point ahead of Reading after losing 1-0 at Newcastle, which got a goal from Shola Ameobi in the 81st. That ended Harry Redknapp's unbeaten start as QPR manager.

Liverpool moved into eighth with a 4-0 win at home over Fulham. After Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard built a 2-0 lead, Stewart Downing scored his first Premier League goal since joining Liverpool before the 2011-12 season. Luis Suarez added his 11th league goal of the season in second-half stoppage time.


ROME (AP) — Lazio (11-4-3) jumped ahead of Inter Milan and Fiorentina into second place in Serie A following a 1-0 win at struggling Sampdoria on Hernanes' goal in the 31st minute.

Inter (11-5-2) needed an 85th-minute equalizer from Esteban Cambiasso for a 1-1 tie against visiting Genoa, which went ahead seven minutes earlier when Ciro Immobile scored.

Sixth-place Roma (10-6-2) took a four-goal lead in a 4-2 win over AC Milan, ending the Rossoneri's four-match league winning streak. Erik Lamela scored twice at Stadio Olimpico after goals by Nicolas Burdisso and Pablo Osvaldo, while Giampaolo Pazzini converted a penalty kick for seventh-place AC Milan (8-7-3) in the 87th and Bojan Krkic scored one minote later.


PARIS (AP) — Lisandro Lopez, Anthony Reveillere and Bafetimbi Gomis scored as second-place Lyon beat Nice 3-0 in the French league.

Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain are 11-3-5 heading into the three-week winter break, with PSG leading on goal difference. Marseille (11-5-2) hosts Saint-Etienne on Sunday and also can reach 38 points.