MESSI GIVES PEP STYLISH NOU SEND-OFF

A review of Saturday's action in Spain's Primera Division.

Last Updated: 06/05/12 at 12:22 Post Comment

Messi is embraced by Barca boss Pep Guardiola

Messi is embraced by Barca boss Pep Guardiola

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Lionel Messi ensured Pep Guardiola received the perfect Nou Camp send off with a four-goal salvo as Barcelona crushed neighbours Espanyol 4-0.

In Guardiola's final home game in charge before he stands down to make way for his assistant Tito Vilanova, he received a parting gift from arguably the most influential player over his four-year reign.

Messi was again magnificent as he moved on to 72 goals in what has been a remarkable season - 50 of which have come in the Primera Division. He now has 251 in 327 Barcelona appearances.

The Argentinian opened the scoring with a free-kick and completed his hat-trick with a trademark burst and finish. Goals two and four were from the penalty spot even though Espanyol could feel aggrieved by both spot-kick awards.

Real Madrid shook off their title-winning hangover in the nick of time to serve Granada a relegation warning with a 2-1 victory.

Having wrapped up their 32nd championship in midweek, the capital club appeared to still be in celebration mode when Franco Jara put Granada ahead with five minutes gone.

That was taking them clear of relegation for the season, only for their situation to be turned on its head in a dramatic final 10 minutes.

First, Cristiano Ronaldo won and converted an equalising penalty, before David Cortes put Karim Benzema's injury-time cross into his own goal.

Then, at the final whistle, Granada's players surrounded police-protected referee Clos Gomez, with Cortes and Borja Perez shown red cards, while the official also seemed to be hit by a bottle thrown by one of the players.The fight to stay in the top flight will go to the final weekend with five teams jostling to avoid the two relegation spots still available.

Second-bottom Sporting Gijon are in most danger, three points behind Real Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano.

Villarreal and Granada are also not yet safe.

Sporting could have gone down on Saturday but a goal in each half from Gaston Sangoy gave them a 2-1 win against Real Betis and renewed hope.

Jorge Molina was on target for Betis, whose slim chances of achieving European qualification were ended with this defeat.

Sporting need to win their final match against Malaga next week and hope both Rayo and Zaragoza lose theirs in order to beat the drop courtesy of their better record in matches between the three sides this season.

Zaragoza also won - 2-1 against already-relegated Racing Santander.

Christian Fernandez headed in an early goal for the visitors which stunned the home crowd.

But Helder Postiga nodded them level only two minutes later before a frustrating period where they piled on the pressure for more than an hour without reward.

Just when they feared time was beginning to run out, Angel Lafita finished from close range to snatch the points they needed.

Rayo were the big losers after a 5-2 defeat at Sevilla.

Baba Diawara opened the scoring for Sevilla and, although Diego Costa levelled from the spot, Juan Cala, Diawara again and Jose Antonio Reyes took the home side clear.

Costa scored his second but Freddie Kanoute sealed things late on to send Rayo into a do-or-die clash with Granada next weekend.

Villarreal lost 1-0 at local rivals Valencia, Jonas grabbing the only goal in the last minute. Los Che are now guaranteed to finish third after Malaga lost at Atletico Madrid.

Pereira Eliseu put the visitors ahead at the Vicente Calderon but goals from Koke and Adrian handed the Rojiblancos victory.

Atletico are now two points behind Malaga in the pursuit of fourth spot and the final Champions League place.

Real Mallorca won the battle of the Europa League hopefuls against Levante - Tomas Pina netting the only goal - while Osasuna stayed in with an outside shot of European football with victory over Real Sociedad courtesy of Ibra Balde's 14th-minute effort.

The match between Copa del Rey and Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao and Getafe ended goalless at San Mames.

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