Lionel Messi double as Barca make record start to season
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Lionel Messi continued his prolific scoring with a brace as Barcelona beat Zaragoza 3-1 to make the best ever start to a Liga season.
There were doubts that Tito Vilanova could take on the mantle left by Pep Guardiola this summer but he has proved himself in emphatic fashion with the team notching up eleven wins and a draw so far that leaves them six points clear at the top and eleven ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid, who play Athletic Bilbao later.
Messi opened the scoring but while Francisco Montanes brought Zaragoza level, Alex Song restored the advantage before the break. Messi got his second and his 17th of the season to ensure a victory and another record with Barca's start beating those of Real Madrid in the 1968-69 and the 1991-92 seasons.
Barca had their preferred centre-half pairing of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol available for the first time since mid-September due to injuries and Song was chosen ahead of Javier Mascherano to play the defensive midfield role with Sergio Busquets suspended.
The main surprise for Zaragoza was the decision to play Carlos Aranda in attack rather than the in-form Helder Postiga with the likely reason that he is more of a team player who drops deep than an out-and-out striker.
Injuries and suspension forced Zaragoza to field makeshift defence with Raul Goni coming in at left back and Adam Pinter in the centre, and they struggled from the start especially on the left.
Jordi Alba crossed for Messi in the first minute and though he shot just wide the Argentine did put Barca ahead after 15 minutes with Alba again the supplier.
Messi was given plenty of room in the heart of the defence to pick his spot and slotted past keeper Roberto Jimenez. MORE (AFP) CM