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