Messi bags 60th goal as Barça come back
Barcelona had to come from behind to beat struggling Real Zaragoza 4-1, as the hosts finished with ten men and also had coach Manolo Jimenez sent to the stands.
Abraham Fernandez was dismissed late in the first half and Jimenez early in the second before an 86th-minute penalty yielded Messi's 60th goal of the season and Pedro Rodriguez added a fourth.
Barça's early effort came to nothing as Dani Alves curled a free-kick harmlessly into the wall and Messi's effort was blocked over the bar by defender Paulo da Silva.
Aranda makes amends
Zaragoza had a penalty chance in the 24th minute. Aranda met Ivan Obradovic's cross and poked the ball against the near post before Victor Valdes was beaten to the follow-up by Angel Lafita, who sought contact and threw himself to the floor.
Valdes redeemed himself, though, by saving both Aranda's penalty and Javier Paredes' headed follow-up. Aranda did not have to wait long to get his name on the scoresheet, though, doing so in curious fashion on the half-hour.
Played in by Franco Zuculini and not flagged offside, the forward shot tamely at Valdes but, having had his heels clipped by Javier Mascherano, fell head-first into the path of the rebound and nodded the ball home.
Barcelona's equaliser arrived six minutes later via the unlikely source of Puyol. Cesc Fabregas should have scored but saw his effort deflected wide of an unguarded goal. From the resulting corner, though, goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez fumbled and veteran defender Puyol scored with an instinctive and classy left-foot volley.
Messi soon made it 2-1 when he bustled past Da Silva on the edge of the box and finished powerfully inside the near post. It got worse for the hosts a minute before half-time when Abraham, booked ten minutes earlier for a foul on Alexis Sanchez, hauled down the Chilean to earn a second yellow card.
The second half began with Jimenez sent to the stands for his protests to referee Javier Turienzo Alvarez after Thiago Alcantara escaped punishment for a clumsy challenge on Lafita.
Messi reaches 60
Obradovic blazed wildly over after running on to Aranda's back-heel and from a free-kick two minutes later, Lafita and Da Silva both had efforts blocked, the former seemingly by the hand of Seydou Keita. Aranda glanced the resulting corner wide.
Fabregas' curling cross narrowly eluded Thiago, who was nudged by Pablo Alvarez, and Sanchez was denied by Roberto when the square pass to Fabregas was certainly a better option.
The former Arsenal midfielder was just too short to put the finishing touches to a sublime move in the 74th minute. Messi's insouciant pass took four defenders out of the game but Pedro's cross was beyond the diving Fabregas.
Messi was guilty of an extraordinary miss when he got clear of the defence but lofted the ball over the bar with his usually reliable left foot, but he emphatically dispatched his spot-kick six minutes later after Paredes brought down Sanchez. The Argentina star was denied a hat-trick by Da Silva's last-gasp challenge but then set up Pedro to tap in the fourth.