MADRID: Lionel Messi scored his 300th and 301st goals in the Spanish league on Wednesday as Barcelona defeated Sporting Gijon 3-1 to open up a six-point lead atop the standings.
Luis Suarez also scored for Barcelona in Gijon in a game postponed from December because of the Club World Cup. The win gave Barcelona 60 points, six more than Atletico Madrid and seven more than third-place Real Madrid after 24 rounds.
Messi opened the scoring with a well-struck low shot in the 25th minute and added his second from close range in the 31st, four minutes after Sporting equalized with striker Carlos Castro in a breakaway at the El Molinon Stadium.
Suarez missed a chance to add to his league-leading 24 goals when his 62nd-minute penalty was saved by Sporting goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar, but the Uruguay striker sealed the victory five minutes later after a nice move inside the area.
This time there was no controversy with the way the penalty was taken. Messi and Suarez attracted the world's attention on Sunday when the Argentine star rolled the ball to the side for Suarez's goal instead of taking the shot himself.
Messi is the Spanish league's all-time scoring leader with 301 goals in 334 games. He has scored 15 this season.
"It's a privilege to be able to count on Leo," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "We faced some difficulties against a team that knows how to defend well, but I think we played a very complete game."
The win — Barcelona's 12th in the last 13 games — extended the club's record streak of 31 games without a loss. The Catalan club hasn't been defeated since a 2-1 result at Sevilla in the league's seventh round in October.
Barcelona's biggest league lead had been four points, in the 12th and 13th rounds in November. No other team has had more than a two-point advantage atop the standings this season.
"It's not been easy because our opponents have been playing against us with extra motivation," Barcelona defender Aleix Vidal said. "What matters in the end is regularity and we've been doing a very good job so far. We have to keep this going, we can't afford a letdown."
Wednesday's game was postponed from the 16th round because Barcelona was playing at FIFA's Club World Cup in Japan, a tournament it won.
Sporting remains 16th in the 20-team standings with 23 points, two above relegation zone.
Messi got on the board with a long-range shot that hit the far corner, then scored with a quick strike after a pass by Suarez.
Just after having his shot from the spot saved by Cuellar, Suarez scored his 24th league goal with a left-footed shot into the far corner after fending off a defender inside the area.
Sporting scored just two minutes after Barcelona opened the scoring, with Castro getting behind the defense to steer home a low cross by Alex Menendez.
Neymar struck the post with a remarkable curling shot in the 33rd.
The game was extra special for coach Luis Enrique, who is from Gijon and grew up together with Sporting coach Abelardo Fernandez. They later played together for Barcelona in the 1990s and remain good friends.