Barca beat Espanyol 4-0 to extend unbeaten run

Barcelona, Jan 7 (IANS) Barcelona kicked off 2013 La Liga football season with a victory, continuing their unbeaten track of 2012.

Barca's 4-0 win over local rivals Espanyol means that Tito Vilanova's side continues to set records and after 18 games they have amassed an incredible 52 points from a possible 54.

The win Sunday was also a perfect present for the return of Vilanova to the Barca dugout less than three weeks after he underwent a cancer operation Dec 20, Xinhua reports.

If his side had wanted to dedicate a win to Vilanova, who begins radiotherapy Monday, they couldn't have done any better in a whirlwind first 45 minutes in which Espanyol hardly got out of their own half.

The only surprise was that Barca needed nine minutes before Xavi Hernandez opened the scoring after being put into space by Andres Iniesta.

Pedro Rodriguez's slight touch from Lionel Messi's shot doubled the lead after 26 minutes, before Pedro's second of the evening made it 3-0. The striker was set clean through and beat Kiko Casilla in the Espanyol goal.

Casilla was then harshly adjudged to have brought down Cesc Fabregas in the Espanyol area and Messi netted the resulting penalty to make it 4-0 before the break.

Barca maintained their control in the second half.

Pedro was unlucky to see two goals ruled out for offside when TV replays implied that although tight decisions, both of his "goals" were in fact legal and Messi rattled the Espanyol crossbar with a 30-yard free kick, but there were no goals. Barca will take their unbeaten record to Malaga next week.

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