Madrid: Lionel Messi went level with Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 41 league goals for the season when he scored twice in Barcelona's come-from-behind 2-1 win over Levante. (Agencies)
The victory closed the gap on Real Madrid to four points with El Clasico to come next weekend. Earlier Real beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 with Ronaldo hitting his 41st league goal of the campaign, beating his own record set last year, but Argentine star Messi was quick to reply just hours later.
Levante had gone ahead from a 23rd minute penalty, converted by Jose Barkero after a foul by Sergio Busquets, but with Barcelona heading for defeat Messi hit a second half brace on Saturday. His second, from the penalty spot after a foul by Pedro Botelho on Juan Cuenca, drew him level with his great Portuguese rival.
A Sergio Ramos handball had seen Miguel Angel De las Cuevas put Sporting ahead against Real from the penalty spot before Gonzalo Higuain equalised after 36 minutes. Ronaldo finally broke Sporting's resistance with a header after 73 minutes and following the dismissal of Roberto Canella for a second yellow card, Karim Benzema hit the third which was Real's record 107th goal of the season.
It puts them level with John Toshack's Real Madrid team in the 1989-90 season with Jose Mourinho's side still with five matches to play. Nuri Sahin began in midfield for Real alongside Sami Khedira, with Xabi Alonso suspended. Jose Callejon was included in a four-pronged attack with Benzema on the bench, with Mourinho perhaps holding him back for the Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
The first clear opening fell to Sporting's Gaston Sangoy after 13 minutes. He stole the ball off Alvaro Arbeloa, the last man, but his shot was palmed away by keeper Iker Casillas. Sporting had most of their players encamped in and around their penalty area in a very defensive formation and Real were struggling to break them down.
Madrid: Lionel Messi went level with Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 41 league goals for the season when he scored twice in Barcelona's come-from-behind 2-1 win over Levante.