MADRID, April 7 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona recovered from a poor start to win 4-1 away to Zaragoza on Saturday night and close the gap at the top of the La Liga table to just three points off Real Madrid, who play Valencia on Sunday.
Leo Messi scored twice, with his second goal coming from the penalty spot, while Carles Puyol also scored an important goal and Pedro Rodriguez netted right at the end for a Barca side that was nevertheless below its best following a tough Champions League game against AC Milan in midweek.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola rested midfield trio Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and his side suffered in the opening minutes against a rival that has won its last three matches to given themselves a chance of avoiding relegation.
Zaragoza's efforts were rewarded after 25 minutes when they were given a penalty for a foul on Angel Lafita by Barca keeper Victor Valdes. Valdes, however, then saved Carlos Aranda's spot kick to maintain the score 0-0.
Aranda was not to be denied, however and put his side ahead four minutes later with a header after Valdes had saved his original shot.
It was short lived, however, as Carles Puyol leveled the score following a rare error from Zaragoza keeper Roberto Jimenez.
Leo Messi then put Barca ahead with a powerful near post shot following a pass from Alexis Sanchez and there was still time in the game for referee Turienzo Alvarez to leave Zaragoza with 10 men after sending of midfielder Abraham for a second yellow card following a foul on Alexis.
Although they kicked off with a player less in the second half, Zaragoza showed no signs of giving up and the game remained open, despite Guardiola bringing Busquets into the action in an attempt to give his side more control.
Turienzo added to the controversy as he sent off Zaragoza coach Manolo Jimenez for his protests over a free kick early in the second half
Messi almost opened up the Zaragoza defense after twisting and turning his way through before he was crowded out and then should have finished the game off 10 minutes from time when he was put clean through only to lob the ball over Roberto and the crossbar.
He finally added his second of the game with five minutes remaining after Javier Paredes brought down Alexis. Messi drove the ball home to ensure his side sleep just three points behind Real Madrid and just to ensure the result Pedro added a fourth goal deep into injury time.