• La Liga

Messi keeps Barca in title hunt

ESPN staff
April 27, 2014
Lionel Messi dedicated his goal to the late Tito Vilanova © Getty Images

Barcelona came from two goals down to beat Villarreal 3-2 and stay in the title race on an emotional night for the club.

Playing their first game since the death of former coach Tito Vilanova, who died of throat cancer aged 45 this week, the night began with a moment of remembrance with his image shown on the big screens in tribute to the man who guided Barcelona to the title in 2013.

Barcelona were subdued for much of the first half and trailed to a Ruben Cani goal scored on the stroke of half-time.

Manuel Trigueros then doubled the lead 10 minutes into the second half, but two Villarreal own goals sparked a comeback as Gabriel Paulista and Mateo Musacchio inadvertently brought things level before Lionel Messi struck the winner seven minutes from time.

A minute's silence was held for former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova who passed away on Friday after a battle with cancer © Getty Images

Earlier on Sunday, a solitary goal by Raul Garcia was enough to see off Valencia and nudge Atletico Madrid closer to the La Liga title ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea.

With three matches left to play, Atletico are now six points clear of second-placed Real Madrid - who have a game in hand on them - and four points ahead of Barcelona.

Midfielder Garcia headed in the crucial goal just moments before half-time and then Atletico dug deep to hold off intermittent swathes of pressure from Valencia to earn their first win at Mestalla in 11 years.

They had to play the last minutes of injury time with 10 men after Juanfran was sent off for a reckless tackle, but it could not prevent them winning the game.

This was widely believed to be Atletico's toughest test remaining and the fact they came through it will only strengthen their confidence of holding off the challenge from Real Madrid, who they lead by three points.

Diego Simeone's side now need just two wins from their next three games to lift their first league title in 18 years.

Atletico travel to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday after a 0-0 draw in the first leg against Chelsea at the Vicente Calderon.

Raul Garcia headed home just before half-time © Getty Images
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