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Barca beat Villarreal; Madrid draw at Osasuna

BARCELONA -- Neymar scored twice to help Barcelona beat Villarreal 2-1 and take advantage of Real Madrid's slip as it opened up a five-point lead over its fierce rival at the top of the Spanish league on Saturday.

Third-place Madrid fell behind and settled for a 2-2 draw earlier at Osasuna in a match both sides finished with 10 men, and Barcelona didn't let the chance escape.

Barcelona, still without the injured Lionel Messi, again turned to Neymar after his hat trick against Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday to convert a penalty on the half-hour mark and restore the lead in the 68th after Villarreal leveled.

Barcelona's eighth win in as many league games at Camp Nou this season provisionally lifted it three points clear of Atletico Madrid before it hosts Valencia on Sunday.

“We played well and knew how to pull out of the game,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.

Other than Alex Song's shot off the upright from a corner kick six minutes in, the first half was a rather monotonous display of “tiki-taka” passing by Barcelona.

But all of Villarreal's discipline in defense was undone when right back Mario Perez used his arm to block Jordi Alba's pass, letting Neymar step up and stroke in the spot kick.

Villarreal didn't muster a shot on goal until defender Mateo Musacchio outmaneuvered Marc Bartra to thump in a corner kick three minutes after halftime to unexpectedly even the score.

The pace picked up with Giovani Dos Santos going close for the visitors before Neymar put Barcelona back in charge when he tapped in Alexis Sanchez's short pass following his control of Cesc Fabregas' lobbed throughball.

Besides missing Messi as his hamstring heals, Barcelona will be without Neymar for next Sunday's game at Getafe after he received his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning he must serve a one-game suspension.

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Barcelona forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, of Brazil, left, celebrates his second goal during the Spanish league soccer match FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Saturday, Dec. 14. (AFP)

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