Barcelona earned only their second away win of the season by beating Valencia 0-3 thanks to an inspired Samuel Eto’o, scorer of two goals. Barça’s joy was diminished by an injury to Leo Messi which will leave him on the sidelines for four or five weeks and he will therefore play no part in next week’s eagerly awaiting Barça-Madrid game. El Clasico will finally take place on Sunday 23rd December with the kick off at 7pm local time (6pm UK).
Real Madrid maintained their four point advantage at the top with a 2-0 win over Osasuna. Madrid keep winning week after week without playing particularly well, this week they took the lead after 15 minutes when Osasuna made a mess of an offside trap at a free kick leaving Ruud van Nistlerooy unmarked to head in Sneijder’s centre. Madrid never really dominated the game but neither did they suffer much due to the ineffectiveness of the Osasuna attack. Fifteen minutes from the end Sneijder scored with a shot from outside the area for his fifth goal of the season to make it 2-0. For the third consecutive week Bernd Schuster left Guti out from the starting lineup in favour of Baptista, it will be interesting to see who starts in Camp Nou next week.
While Schuster left out Guti, Frank Rijkaard left out Ronaldinho, preferring to play Iniesta in the Brazilian’s role while Eidur Gudjohnsen played again in midfield. When Messi had to come off injured near the end of the first half Rijkaard preferred to use young Giovani dos Santos as substitute, and Ronaldinho spent the entire game watching from the side. There could be a pattern emerging here with Ronaldinho playing in home games at sitting out when Barça travel. Gudjohnsen repaid Rijkaard’s faith with a fine performance which was capped by scoring Barça’s third goal. Click here for a full report on Valencia-Barça.
Atletico Madrid stay in third place but dropped points on the leaders after a 0-0 draw at Recreativo. In a frantic game the best occassions fell to Atletico but Diego Forlan, Agüero and company couldn’t find the winner although Forlan did find the net once but the goal was disallowed because the referee had blown for a dive by Maxi Rodriguez in the build-up.
Villarreal are now level on points with Atletico after winning 1-3 at Getafe. Nihat Kahveci got his sixth and seventh goals of the season and Santi Cazorla got another to put the visitors three goals up before Kepa Blanco pulled a goal back in the 85th minute. Then in the 88th minute Fuentes was sent off for a foul on Kepa giving Getafe a penalty and a chance to force an exciting finish. However, Kepa blasted the penalty over the bar and Villarreal’s ten men had no problem holding on for the remaining minutes.
Espanyol continue in fifth place but they made hard work of winning at home against bottom club Levante. After just eight minutes Jarque put Espanyol in front after prodding home the rebound after his header had been saved by Storari. Espanyol, however, couldn’t find a second goal and ended up holding on to win 1-0.
Betis got a much needed 3-1 victory at home to Almeria in a game messed up by referee Velasco Carballo. In the 8th minute he disallowed a Betis goal for a dubious offside. After Negredo gave Almeria the lead on ten minutes the referee seemed to want to compensate for the earlier mistake by giving Almeria’s Acasiete an unjust second yellow card after only 15 minutes. Almeria were then reduced to nine men after just 22 minutes when goalkeeper Cobeño was sent off for bringing down Riviera in the area. Nearly six minutes passed before Edu could convert the penalty due to the ref insisting that substitute goalie Alves change his shirt.
Almeria held on until the second half but then two goals from Pavone gave the home team the three points. Betis are still 18th in the table on 17 points but now only four points separate them with Mallorca who are 8th on 21 points.
Mallorca could do no better than a 0-0 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao. Mallorca dominated until they were reduced to ten men after 33 minutes when Nunes was sent off for protesting. Athletic couldn’t take advantage of their numerical superiority and at the end both teams seemed happy to settle for a point.
Valladolid and Sevilla couldn’t manage a goal between them either. None of the big teams have been capable of winning in Valladolid, and now Sevilla will find it very difficult to get back in the race for a Champions League place. The point should not seem so bad for them, however, as they ended the game with only nine men after Fazio (min 52) and Luis Fabiano (min81) were sent off.
There was more refereeing controversy in La Coruña where Deportivo drew 1-1 with Zaragoza. Diego Milito gave Zaragoza a deserved lead in the first half, but then the start of the second half was marked by three mistakes from referee Perez Burrull. In the 48th minute he disallowed a seemingly good equalizer from Ruben, then five minutes later he allowed an equalizer by Coloccini who was offside. A minute after this Depor should have had a penalty when Ayala fouled Xisco but the ref waved play on. Just for good measure he sent off Depor’s Chapi near the end but this time the decision was correct.
Finally, Racing stay in sixth place despite losing 2-1 at Murcia. Goitom opened the scoring for Murcia before Smolarek equalized for Racing. In the 83rd minute a stupid handball from Racing’s Moraton gave Murcia a penalty which was converted by Baiano. with four minutes to go Smolarek was clearly fouled in the penalty area but no penalty was given because the linesman had flagged for a non-existant offside.
A mention should be made for ex-Barcelona player Guillermo Amor who suffered a horrific car crash on Saturday night when he fell asleep at the wheel driving back after commentating on the Valencia-Barça game. He underwent abdominal surgery early on Sunday morning and is said to be stable though he continues in the intensive care unit.
La Liga’s Top Six: Real Madrid 38 pts, Barcelona 34, Atletico Madrid 31, Villarreal 31, Espanyol 30, Racing Santander 26.
Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano 10, Messi 8, Diego Milito 8, Van Nistlerooy 8, Raul 8.
Follow the build-up to next Sunday’s Barçelona-Madrid with Nic Aldam at FCBNews.