Madrid: Barcelona drew level on points with leaders Real Madrid, at least for a couple of hours, when Lionel Messi netted his 15th La Liga goal of the season in a 4-0 win at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday.
The victory at a damp Nou Camp, where Gerard Pique and substitute David Villa also struck for the Spanish and European champions and Zaragoza defender Maurizio Lanzaro scored an own goal, gave Barca 28 points from 12 matches.
Their great rivals Real Madrid travel to third-placed Valencia later on Saturday (2100 GMT).
Central defender Pique nodded Barca in front from a Xavi free kick in the 18th minute before Messi picked up a Cesc Fabregas pass in the penalty area just before halftime and sent a low, right-foot shot past goalkeeper Roberto.
Captain Carles Puyol thought he scored nine minutes into the second period but it was chalked up as a Lanzaro own goal as the Italian tried in vain to clear.
Villa, who replaced Spain team mate Fabregas in the 66th minute, put Barca 4-0 ahead with an acrobatic header nine minutes later.
In the early kickoff, injury-ravaged Villarreal claimed their third victory of the campaign when Borja Valero caught Real Betis keeper Casto off his line with a lobbed effort in the 21st minute that gave Juan Carlos Garrido`s side a 1-0 home win.
Villarreal, who visit Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, climbed to 10th on 14 points.
Struggling Betis won their opening four matches of the season but have taken only one point from the last eight and are 13th on 13 points, three ahead of Zaragoza in 16th.
First Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011, 13:51