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Barca unfazed by president's exit, keeps co-lead

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm •  Published: January 26, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona was unfazed by the recent departure of its club president amid a lawsuit as it eased to a 3-0 win over Malaga on Sunday to reclaim its share of the Spanish league lead.

Lionel Messi didn't score but he played a part in two goals, setting up Pedro Rodriguez to make it 2-0 in the 55th after Gerard Pique had opened the scoring five minutes before halftime. Pedro then took Messi's pass and crossed for Alexis Sanchez to tap in the hosts' third in the 61st.

Atletico Madrid stayed level with Barcelona at the top of the standings by romping to a 4-2 win at Rayo Vallecano as Diego Costa scored his 20th league goal of the season.

Both title rivals ended a run of two straight draws to restore a one-point advantage over Real Madrid.

The match at Camp Nou came just three days after Sandro Rosell stepped down to fight a lawsuit alleging that he misappropriated funds by hiding the true cost of signing of Brazil star Neymar. He and the club deny the accusations. Josep Bartomeu attended his first match as the Catalan club's 40th president in the Camp Nou stands.

Pique said that although he didn't know if Rosell's exit was good for the club, he was sure the administrative turmoil hadn't affected the squad's focus on defending its Spanish league title.

"We continue competing the same way we have in recent years," said Pique. "Off the pitch, it is something people talk about, but on the pitch it affects us very little.

"After all the bad moments we have had in these recent years we have maintained the league lead and that shows this group is strong and that we can stay on top," Pique said in a possible reference to the team dealing with former coach Tito Vilanova's and player Eric Abidal's illnesses.

Far from distracted, Gerardo Martino's team played one of its best games of the season, bombarding Malaga with 18 shots on-target of all types and from all angles.

Martino, in fact, said he was more concerned about "not winning by a wider margin" than the club's leadership.

Pique broke through when he used his stomach to control a corner kick flicked on by Alexis, sized up Willy Caballero and then drove the ball under the Malaga goalie.

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