Magical Messi scores his second goal to propel the Catalan giants back to the top spot GALLO/GETTY]

A moment of genius from Lionel Messi led to a 3-1 home win for Barcelona over Villarreal in Spain's Primera Division on Saturday putting the champions two points clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid at the top of the standings.

With the two sides locked at 1-1 after first-half goals from Barca striker David Villa and his Villarreal counterpart Nilmar, the Argentina forward showed why he is the current World Player of the Year with a finish of breathtaking skill in the 58th minute.

Twice exchanging passes with Pedro, he raced past the static defenders and, as Diego Lopez sprinted out, lifted a delicate angled chip over the Villarreal goalkeeper with his weaker right foot and into the empty net.

Fan favourite

The Barca faithful thronging the Nou Camp roared their approval and chants of "Messi, Messi, Messi" rang out around the giant arena.

Liga results & fixtures

Saturday November 13

 Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Almeria
 Atletico 3-0 Osasuna
 Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal

Sunday November 14

 Hercules v Real Sociedad
 Malaga v Levante
 Mallorca v Depor
 Racing v Espanyol
 R Zaragoza v Sevilla
 Sporting  v Real Madrid
 Valencia v Getafe

His second in the 83rd was less spectacular but made the game safe against a dangerous Villarreal side.

Pedro's shot ricocheted into Messi's path and he deflected the ball past Lopez low into the corner.

They were the 23-year-old's ninth and tenth league goals of the campaign, leaving him one short of Real Madrid forward and top marksman Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barca have 28 points from 11 matches, two ahead of Real, who can re-establish their one-point lead with a win at mid-table Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Villarreal have 23 in third, with the gap to the two Spanish giants, who meet in Barcelona at the end of this month, already beginning to open up.

After dominating the early stages, Barca took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute when Villa raced on to Andres Iniesta's pass, took the ball past Spain team mate Carlos Marchena and finished clinically beyond Lopez into the far corner.

A burst of pace from Nilmar created the equaliser four minutes later. The Brazilian left Carles Puyol for dead and his clipped shot over Victor Valdes went in off the post.

Source: Reuters