El 0-1 a Valladolid. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

With 49 out of a possible 51 points - 16 wins and 1 draw in their first 17 games- Barça close 2012 as undisputed leaders of La Liga after tonight's victory over Valladolid  - their eighth from eight  away games this season. The players wore t-shirts with messages of support for their manager Tito Vilanova and played with a courage and commitment he would have been proud of   to overcome Valladolid and finish off another excellent year, with  Xavi, the tireless Messi and Tello on target for the leaders.

Desire to play good football

As expected, the game was a fascinating duel between two confident, brave teams with plenty of desire to play good football. Barça looked very focussed on the job in hand as they imposed a high rhythm on the game from the outset, dominating possession and pressing Valladolid  high up the pitch. Impeding Valladolid's attempts to bring the ball out under control.  Alexis had Barça's first chance of the game on 5 minutes, but he failed to put away a great chance after Alves had set him up.

Barça lay siege

When Valladolid managed to break out from the pressure Barça were putting them under, Manucho saw a chance blocked by Jordi Alba, but that was virtually all the hosts could manage as Barça again returned to lay siege to Dani Hernandez's goal. The leaders moved up yet another gear and Messi hit a brilliant free kick against the woodwork on 35 minutes.

Xavi opens the scoring

The opener finally came just before the break: Messi picked up the ball, accelerated and laid it off for Jordi Alba who put Xavi in to score and send Barça in deservedly ahead at the break

Barça came out just as fired up for the second half and Alves and Pedro, who headed against the woodwork, both threatened, as the team controlled any Valladolid danger by holding onto the ball, with Busquets particularly strong in recovering possession.

Messi makes it 91

Valladolid were forced to open up and this gave Barça's front men more space to exploit – a dangerous situation with Messi on the pitch and just before the hour mark, the Argentinean made it 91 goals for 2012 with a typically audacious individual effort that brought the Valladolid fans to their feet.

With Barça playing some beautiful controlled football, the crowd even began to chant the visitors' players' names and it looked as if Djukic's men had more or less accepted their defeat before an 89th minute goal from Guerra momentarily opened the opportunity for a late comeback. This Barça are made of sterner stuff though, and substitute Tello put an end to any fears with a well taken third, as he took advantage of a defensive slip up.

A special win to end the year and send a message of cheer to Tito.