Real stay top after 2-0 win over Recreativo

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MADRID, Oct 8 (Reuters) Second-half strikes from Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gonzalo Higuain earned Real Madrid a 2-0 win at home to Recreativo Huelva that kept them top of the Primera Liga.

The game looked to be heading for a draw until Van Nistelrooy slotted a low shot past keeper Stefano Sorrentino after Raul had clipped a neat pass into his path on the edge of the area 17 minutes from time yesterday.

Substitute Higuain added the second just before the final whistle, rounding Sorrentino and steering into the open net after a fine through-ball from midfielder Guti.

Argentine forward Lionel Messi scored one and set up another as he helped Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Atletico Madrid that pushed them up into second place ahead of Villarreal who went down 3-2 at Osasuna.

Real head the standings with 19 points from seven games, two clear of Barcelona and four ahead of Villarreal and their regional rivals Valencia, who lost 2-1 at home to Espanyol on Saturday.

An out-of-sorts Sevilla slipped to their fourth league defeat in a row when they went down 1-0 at home to Deportivo Coruna and drop to 15th place in the table although they have a game in hand.

Atletico made a bright start at the Nou Camp, gaining the upper hand in the early exchanges, but a dreadful error by Italian keeper Christian Abbiati gifted Barca the lead in the 16th minute.

EMPTY NET Messi sent a low pass into the area after getting the better of left back Mariano Pernia, Abbiati spilled the ball and Deco was on hand to poke home into the empty net.

Three minutes later Messi made it 2-0 and took his tally for the season to six when he drilled in with an angled shot after a quicksilver one-two with Ronaldinho on the edge of the area.

Midfielder Xavi wrapped up an emphatic win when he smacked in from close range to put the final touch to a gleaming one-touch passing move involving Deco and substitute Giovani dos Santos.

Villarreal took the lead against Osasuna through in-form Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi, but the Navarrans fought back hard and got the better of a see-saw encounter thanks to stunning 30-metre strike from midfielder Javi Garcia.

Real Zaragoza bounced back from their midweek exit in the UEFA Cup with a 3-0 win over basement side Levante while Michael Laudrup's Getafe remain without a win after surrendering a 2-0 lead to lose out 4-2 to Real Mallorca in the game of the day.

Getafe midfielder Francisco Sousa scored two great goals at the start of each half, but the islanders staged a brilliant comeback despite having midfielder Guillermo Pereyra sent off on the hour with Venezuela international Juan Arango striking twice.

Reuters PDS RN1124

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