Barcelona thrash Atletico Madrid as Messi out-guns Falcao

Barcelona thrashed Atletico Madrid 4-1 in last night's top of the table showdown.

Lionel Messi won the much-anticipated duel with Radamel Falcao to fire Barcelona to an impressive 4-1 victory over Atletico Madrid and a nine-point advantage at the top of the Primera Division.

Falcao put Atletico ahead in the first half but, despite enjoying the better of the opening 45 minutes, Diego Simeone's side trailed at the break after a stunning goal from Adriano and a well-taken effort from Sergio Busquets.

Messi was a long way from his magical best but still ended up with two goals - his 89th and 90th of a remarkable 2012 - to quell Atletico's challenge in the second period.

It all added up to a wonderful night for Tito Vilanova's men who not only moved a further three points clear of second-placed Atletico at the summit but also took to the Nou Camp pitch moments after arch-rivals Real Madrid had been held to a surprise 2-2 draw by Espanyol at the Bernabeu.

That stalemate left Madrid 13 points adrift of the Catalans - a deficit even boss Jose Mourinho admitted would be "practically impossible" to overhaul.

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