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Valladolid 1-3 Barcelona: Blaugrana battle past plucky Pucela

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Valladolid 1-3 Barcelona: Blaugrana battle past plucky Pucela
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Valladolid 1-3 Barcelona: Blaugrana battle past plucky Pucela
Barcelona made it 16 wins from 17 Liga games this season as it survived a late comeback from Valladolid to come out on top 3-1 at the Jose Zorilla stadium.

With Tito Vilanova recovering from surgery, Jordi Roura took charge of first team affairs for the Catalan giant and there was little chance of an upset as the visitors dominated throughout.

Xavi opened the scoring in the first half before yet another goal for Lionel Messi on the hour mark. Javi Guerra set up a tense ending with a late strike but Christian Tello secured all three points with a stoppage-time winner.

Roura's temporary reign at the Barca helm almost got off to the perfect start as Dani Alves centered the ball after a great through-pass from Messi. Alexis Sanchez was in plenty of space in the area but despite stretching he was unable to meet the ball for a simple finish.

The hosts were keeping every man behind the ball and squeezing the space in which the Barcelona forwards could operate. This meant that despite dominating possession, the Blaugrana were finding it difficult to work opportunities to score.

Nevertheless Messi continued to eke out opportunities and after having a weak header saved by Dani Hernandez, he came even closer in the 36th minute. A well-struck free kick curled around the outside of the wall but cracked off the post and back across the goal mouth before being cleared away.

It was the best chance of the game but just seven minutes later Barca was finally in front with a goal that embodied the club's philosophy.

After biding his time, Messi surged forward and after a quick exchange of passes with Xavi he laid the ball off the ball for the overlapping Jordi Alba. His low cross found the captain at the back post to slide in the opener.

The Catalan side showed no signs of stepping off the gas in the second half and it continued to force Valladolid back. Three minutes after the restart, Alves rounded the keeper but could only cross for Pedro, whose header clipped the outside of the post.

Messi was next to spurn a chance to put the visitors two up as he dragged a shot horribly wide after a mistake from Henrique Sereno, but he atoned two minutes later on the hour mark.

The Argentine received the ball from Xavi and jinked past a defender before guiding a low shot across goal that went in off the post for his 91st strike of 2012.

Barca was almost gifted another in the 63rd minute as Antonio Rukavina's headed pass back to Dani caught the keeper out of position and forced him to race back and claw the ball away from the goal line.

The Blaugrana took their foot off the gas and Pucela managed to grab a consolation in the 89th minute as Guerra swept into an open net after Victor Valdes had done superbly to keep out his original header.

But Barcelona restored its two-goal cushion as Tello raced through the defense and slotted home an accomplished finish to secure a victory that sends the Catalans into the winter break with an impressive nine-point lead at the summit of the league.

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