Barça back on track with Rayo rout
Barcelona put Saturday's defeat behind them to cruise to victory over Rayo Vallecano and move back to within three points of Primera Division leaders Real Madrid.
Barça lost at Getafe at the weekend, leaving their rivals from Madrid with a six-point lead and prompting many to predict the title race was already almost over. Pep Guardiola's side remain an unstoppable force at home though, and two goals from Alexis Sanchez and a third from David Villa killed the game off before half-time.
Lionel Messi's strike after the break left Barça having scored 34 and conceded none at the Nou Camp this term but, though it should end talk of a slump, they remain well back on Madrid having played a game more.
Andres Iniesta tried his luck from the centre circle in the second minute - and he was not far away, as his shot was turned behind by David Cobeno. At the other end Lass Bangoura volleyed wide at the far post as Barça showed signs of the frailties which have dogged them of late.
As the half went on, though, the hosts started to exert more control, and Dani Alves brought a save out of Cobeno from inside the area. Alejandro Arribas saw his speculative effort turned over by Victor Valdes in the 23rd minute, before Iniesta shot again - from a more conservative 20 yards this time - just failing to find the target.
Moments later Barça were ahead though, with Iniesta the provider, playing the ball into the area for Sanchez who controlled before curling past Cobeno. And after 41 minutes, Sanchez had a second. Messi and Xavi were involved in the build-up, before the Chilean applied the finish from close range.
Two minutes later. Barça killed the game off as a square pass from Alves found Villa to pass the ball into the net from 12 yards. Messi got his name on the scoresheet five minutes into the second half when he advanced into the area from the right, passed a defender and finished.
The quality dipped thereafter, with chances few and far between. After 70 minutes Villa lobbed the ball over the bar from 20 yards and, five minutes later, Messi fired wide when the ball broke kindly for the Argentinian.
"Alexis (Sanchez) isn't a striker but he also can do this job which helps us a lot," said Guardiola. "He was injured for a while but before that he was very useful for us and then coming back he needed a bit of time. I have to congratulate him for his performance here."
Rayo coach Jose Ramon Sandoval was satisfied that his team gave their best. "There was nothing for us to do but show our credentials by going out to win. We have given the Primera Division our style of football and I am more proud than ever of my players," he said.