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Lionel Messi ends record year with 91 goals

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, from Argentina, and

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, from Argentina, and Xavier Hernandez, right, celebrate after scoring during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Real Valladolid at the Jose Zorrilla stadium in Valladolid, Spain. (Dec. 22, 2012) Credit: AP

BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi polished off his record year with his 91st and final goal of 2012 in Barcelona's 3-1 win at Valladolid on Saturday night, while Jose Mourinho's decision to bench goalkeeper Iker Casillas backfired as Real Madrid lost 3-2 at Malaga and fell 16 points off the pace in the Spanish league.

Messi fed Jordi Alba, who crossed to Xavi Hernandez for the first goal in the 43rd minute, and Messi dribbling between a defender's legs before scoring in the 59th, his 35th goal of the 2012-13 season.

Expected to win his fourth FIFA Player of the Year award next month, Messi finished 2012 with 79 goals for Barcelona: 59 in the Spanish league, 13 in the Champions League, five in the Copa del Rey and two in the Spanish Super Cup. He had 12 for Argentina: five in World Cup qualifiers and seven in exhibition games.

Messi broke Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany.

Players from both teams wore T-shirts before the game with messages of support for Barcelona coach Vilanova, who had throat surgery Thursday for the second time in two years to remove a second tumor from a saliva gland.

Barcelona (16-0-1) holds a nine-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid (13-3-1) and dropped defending champion Real Madrid (10-4-3) to its biggest deficit in more than a decade.

"The difference with the leader is insurmountable," Mourinho said.

Barcelona was coached by assistant Jordi Roura. Vilanova being released from a hospital just moments before the game and is expected to undergo about six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.

"This win is for Tito," Barcelona defender Dani Alves said. "It's a surprise and joy that he is home now. We are here to help him any way he can. Football is secondary now, he is fighting for his life."

At Malaga, Mourinho made the startling decision to bench Casillas, voted best goalkeeper in the world by players in each of the last four seasons, and start Adan Garrido. Madrid's captain, Casillas had started 53 of Real's last 54 league games, all but the finale last season after the title had been clinched.

"We hadn't been playing well in different aspects of the game, including defense," Mourinho said. "My opinion is the one that matters. I analyzed the players I had available and picked the team to play. You can invent the story you want, but it is a purely technical decision and nothing more."

Casillas' mood in Madrid's dugout at La Rosaleda stadium went from glum to nervous and finally anguished. At one point he zipped his sweat shirt up to hide half his face.

"It surprised us; Iker is our captain," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said.

Francisco "Isco" Alarcon put fourth-place Malaga (9-4-4) ahead in the 49th, and Madrid tied the score on Sergio Sanchez's own goal in the 66th. Substitute Roque Santa Cruz scored in the 72nd and 76th minutes, the first goal a tap-in after Adan failed to stop a cross. Karim Benzema scored for Madrid in the 82nd.

Real Madrid is 16 points back for the first time since Dec. 19, 1999, according to STATS LLC.

"Fear for my job?" Mourinho said. "I have never feared for my job."

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