NEWS
04/14/2012 08:40 EDT | Updated 06/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Lionel Messi equals Cristiano Ronaldo's record 41 goals scored in a season 2 hours later

MADRID - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored a penalty against Levante on Saturday to match Cristiano Ronaldo's Spanish league record 41 goals in a season, set less than two hours earlier.

Messi converted the 72nd-minute spot kick to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory and equal rival Ronaldo, who set the record with a 74th-minute header in Real Madrid's 3-1 victory over Sporting Gijon.

Messi trailed Ronaldo by two goals going into the match and curled home a 64th-minute equalizer to close the gap to one.

Madrid maintained its four point lead over three-time defending champion Barcelona before next Saturday's "Clasico" match between the bitter rivals, which could prove crucial in the title race with only four more games remaining after that.

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Paul Logothetis can be reached at: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP