La Liga

Barcelona close in on La Liga title

FC Barcelona defeated lowly Recreativo de Huelva 2-0 at the Camp Nou to stretch their Liga lead over Real Madrid to nine points, on a day when Villarreal’s hopes of a top-four finish were dented by Málaga.

Josep Guardiola’s team quickly set about their relegation-threatened opponents and were a goal to the good after a minute when Thierry Henry teed up Andrés Iniesta to tap in. Sylvinho deflected a goal-bound header from Andrés Lamas wide after 20 minutes to ensure Barça remained in front and they doubled their lead midway through the second half when Nasief Morris diverted Iniesta’s pass into his own net. Lionel Messi, scorer of two in the 4-0 defeat of FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, had a late penalty save by Asier Riesgo.

Elsewhere, Villarreal’s preparations for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final with Arsenal on Wednesday suffered a blow, the Yellow Submarine losing 2-0 to Málaga at El Madrigal. A goal in each half from Portuguese midfielder Duda (38) and Eliseu (86) ended a two-game losing run and lifted Antonio Tapia’s side up to sixth, level on points with Valencia, who will replace Villarreal in fourth if they win at Real Sporting de Gijón on Sunday.