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Messi overhauls Di Stefano mark

Madrid: Real Madrid extended their unbeaten run to 25 matches and rejoined Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga when Jese, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric scored in a 3-0 win at Getafe on Sunday.

Barca and Atletico recorded easy home wins on Saturday, the champions thrashing Rayo Vallecano 6-0 and Atletico thumping Real Valladolid 3-0, and the title race remains a tight three-way fight with 14 matches left.

Barca, chasing a fifth title in six years, lead from Real, with Atletico in third, when goal difference is taken into account. However, the trio, who each have 60 points from 24 games, will be separated by their head-to-head records if they are still tied at the end of the campaign.

Lionel Messi overhauled Alfredo Di Stefano’s La Liga goals tally. Back to his best after returning from a two-month injury lay-off in early January, Messi struck twice at the Nou Camp. The brace took his total in Spain’s top flight to 228 goals from 263 matches, one more than what Real Madrid great Di Stefano managed in 329 games.

Real have not been beaten since a 1-2 La Liga reverse at Barca at the end of October. They lost 0-1 at home to Atletico in the league a month earlier, while Barca and Atletico drew 0-0 in Madrid last month.

“We have to carry on like this because the important part of the season is starting now,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side play their Champions League last 16, first leg at Schalke 04 in 10 days, told a news conference.

“We are more solid and have more confidence,” added the Italian. “We are in good physical and mental shape.”

Athletic Bilbao are trailing in fourth on 44 points after losing 2-1 at home to Espanyol, the Basque club's first defeat at their new San Mames stadium in La Liga.

Real were missing La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo for the trip to the Madrid suburbs and it was the player deployed in place of the suspended Portugal forward, Jese, who opened the scoring at Getafe’s Coliseum stadium in the sixth minute.

France forward Benzema finished off a swift break with some neat control and a clinical shot in the 27th and Croatia midfielder Modric fired a third from just outside the penalty area in the 66th.

“I am happy with the goals that I am giving to the team,” Jese, a product of Real’s academy who has been in good form in recent weeks, told reporters.

(agencies)