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Lionel Messi's 4 Goals Help Barcelona Beat Valencia 5-1 (VIDEO)

First Posted: 02/19/2012 9:41 pm Updated: 02/20/2012 9:26 am

MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi scored four times to move past the 40-goal mark for a third straight season and power Barcelona to a 5-1 victory against Valencia on Sunday.

Barcelona had to come from behind to stay within 10 points of Real Madrid, which beat Racing Santander 4-0 on Saturday.

The big star was Messi, who capped his big performance in his 200th league appearance for the club with a chip past goalkeeper Diego Alves for his 27th league goal, 42nd in all competitions and 146th overall league goal overall for Barcelona.

"The team played an incredible game," said Messi, whose only other four-goal performance was against Arsenal in the Champions League nearly two years ago. "Some days you play well and some days you play poorly but what important is the team wins."

Pablo Piatti scored in the ninth minute for Valencia, and Xavi Hernandez had the other goal for Barcelona.

Earlier, Athletic Bilbao scored three goals in four second-half minutes to beat Malaga 3-0 while Levante's early season success continued to unravel during a winless 2012 after a 5-3 loss to Rayo Vallecano.

Malaga dominated the first half at the San Mames with 14 shots, but Fernando Amorebieta scored in the 58th minute and Mikel San Jose headed home a corner kick in the 60th. Gaizka Toquero then slid into Ander Herrera's cross-goal pass to volley home from a tight angle.

Espanyol, which drew 1-1 at Getafe on Saturday, and Athletic share fourth and the last Champions League qualifying spot behind Valencia, with Atletico Madrid and Levante another point back. New Sporting Gijon coach Javier Clemente began with a 1-1 draw against Atletico, which remains unbeaten under coach Diego Simeone.

Lass Bangoura and Diego Costa both scored two goals as Rayo won its third straight match to move within two points of fourth place alongside Malaga.

Also Sunday, Ikechukwu Uche scored two goals as Granada rallied to beat 10-man Real Sociedad 4-1 and Mallorca posted a 4-0 win over Villarreal.

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LONDON (AP) — Premier League title contender Tottenham was held to a 0-0 draw by third-tier side Stevenage in the FA Cup on Sunday, while Liverpool and Stoke advanced to the quarterfinals with few problems.

Spurs had a goal by Louis Saha ruled out because of offside but were largely frustrated by an organized Stevenage team.

Stoke — last season's runner-up — overcame an early red card to Rory Delap to beat fourth-tier side Crawley 2-0 on a 42nd-minute penalty by Jonathan Walters and a 52nd-minute header from Peter Crouch.

Liverpool warmed up for next weekend's League Cup final against Cardiff with a 6-1 win over another second-tier side, beating Brighton with the help of three own-goals to join Sunderland, Bolton, Everton and Leicester in the quarterfinals.

Tottenham fielded a strong lineup despite the absence of Luka Modric (illness) and seemed to have a breakthrough when Saha hit a left-wing cross by Danny Rose through a crowd of players and into the goal.

But the linesman hoisted his flag to signal that the ball had brushed the offside Scott Parker on its way into the net, and the referee wiped out the goal.

Stoke, which lost 1-0 to Manchester City in last season's final, will meet Liverpool next.

"It is a great achievement by the football club to have made a third successive quarterfinal appearance," Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. "We're one win away from Wembley again."

Martin Skrtel and an own goal from Liam Bridcutt gave Liverpool a 2-1 halftime lead over a Brighton team coached by former Uruguay and Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet. Andy Carroll, with a rare goal, just his eighth of the season, a pair of second-half own goals and a late effort by Luis Suarez, who also missed a penalty, wrapped up a comprehensive victory.

Everton will play Sunderland, while the other March 17-18 quarterfinal will be between Leicester and the winner of a replay between Chelsea and second-tier Birmingham.

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MILAN (AP) — Sulley Muntari scored in his first game with AC Milan, which beat struggling Cesena 3-1 on Sunday to return to the top of Serie A.

Muntari opened the scoring in the 29th minute and Urby Emanuelson doubled Milan's lead two minutes later. Robinho added a third 10 minutes into the second half.

Daniel Pudil scored for Cesena, which remains seven points adrift of safety after Siena lost 4-1 to Lecce in a relegation battle.

Milan is a point above Juventus, which has a game in hand. The two teams meet next weekend.

Elsewhere, Roma captain Francesco Totti played his 700th game for the club in a 1-0 victory over Parma, with Fabio Borini scoring the only goal. Lazio was routed 5-1 at Palermo.

Milan was in control throughout. The defending champion went in front when Thiago Silva whipped in a free kick that Francesco Antonioli failed to hold, allowing Muntari — who signed on loan from bitter rival Inter Milan last month — the easiest of tap-ins.

Cesena slipped to the bottom of Serie A after Novara, which started the day in last place, drew 0-0 with Atalanta in an entertaining match full of chances for both sides.

Chievo Verona beat Genoa 1-0, and Udinese drew 0-0 against Cagliari.

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PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain needed a late equalizer to salvage a 2-2 draw against Montpellier and keep a one-point lead over its opponent at the top of the French league.

Jeremy Menez's dribbling skills enabled PSG to level in the 88th minute, the winger dancing around Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to set up Guillaume Hoarau for a tap-in.

PSG center back Alex opened the scoring with a powerful strike from 30 yards in the 41st minute. But Younes Belhanda equalized with a downward header in the 45th.

Nigerian forward John Utaka gave Montpellier the lead by heading home a pinpoint cross from Olivier Giroud in the 82nd minute.

Also Sunday, Lyon lost 1-0 at Bordeaux, and Saint-Etienne routed Rennes 4-0 to rise to sixth, level on points with Marseille, Lyon and Rennes.

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored two goals to help Schalke beat Wolfsburg 4-0 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Huntelaar also had a penalty saved by Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio. Huntelaar is tied with Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez with a league-high 18 goals, and Schalke leads the Bundesliga with 50 goals overall.

Hannover beat Stuttgart 4-2 in the late match, getting a goal and two assists from Christian Pander.

Borussia Dortmund leads the league by three points over Borussia Moenchengladbach.

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Celtic stretched its lead over troubled rival Rangers to 17 points with a 5-0 win over Hibernian on Sunday in the Scottish Premier League.

Gary Hooper had two goals and Anthony Stokes, Charlie Mulgrew and substitute Ki Sung-yueng also scored to extend Celtic's winning run in domestic competition to 18 games.

With Rangers deducted 10 points this week for seeking bankruptcy protection before losing 1-0 to Kilmarnock, Celtic looks certain to lift the title.

St. Johnstone drew 0-0 at Aberdeen in Sunday's other game.

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Defending champion Olympiakos stayed within two points of Greek league leader Panathinaikos after beating Panionios 2-0 on Sunday on headed goals by Jean Makoun and Diogo.

Jose Holebas' curling free kick in the 41st minute was met by Makoun's header, which hit the underside of the crossbar before finding the net.

In the 50th, Djamel Abdoun's pass enabled Holebas to chase the ball down the left flank and cross for the oncoming Diogo to head the ball onto the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.

Third-place PAOK was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Aris. In other games Sunday, Levadiakos won 2-0 at Panaitolikos, Atromitos won 2-1 at Giannena and Kerkyra beat last-place Drama 3-1.

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Steve McClaren's FC Twente is back in the Dutch league title race after beating Vitesse Arnhem 4-1 on Sunday.

Twente capitalized on surprise losses by PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar in the 22nd round to move within three points of the leaders.

PSV still leads on goal difference after losing 3-0 at FC Groningen. AZ dropped a 3-0 decision at FC Utrecht.

PSV and Twente have 45 points each. SC Heereveen is two points back in third place, while Twente is next with 42 and a game in hand.

Ajax beat NEC Nijmegen 4-1, with Russia forward Dmitry Bulykin scoring his seventh and eighth goals of the season.

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Filed by Michael Klopman  |