La Liga week 5 – Barcelona play better without Ronny and Eto’o

The war of the television companies continues in Spain. For the first time since TV began showing football there was no game transmitted free on Spanish TV after Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon decided to support Sogecable and not allow the transmission of yesterday’s game with Betis on the “La Sexta” channel.

Calderon was also in the news this week after he was detained for two hours at JFK airport in New York when customs officials rather amusingly confused him with a Columbian drug smuggler! Calderon may have done Madrid fans a favour by blocking the transmission as it was another mediocre performance from the team.

Bernd Schuster made five changes to the team that drew with Valladolid, Torres and Higuian came in for Salgado and Robinho on the right, while Marcelo and Drenthe were replaced by Heinze and Sneijder on the left. Javier Saviola partnered Raul up front in place of the injured Ruud Van Nistlerooy.

In the first half Madrid had possession but the best two chances fell to Betis. Mark Gonzalez missed a great chance in the 34th minute, shooting over after a defensive mix-up, then Rivas hit the post after a corner from Odonkor.

The game came to life in the last 30 minutes after Schuster introduced Robben and Robinho for Higuian and Saviola. After 66 minutes it seemed as if Robinho had scored but the referee had blown for an inexistant penalty. It made no difference in the end as Raul stepped forward to score from 12 yards.

Betis then hit the woodwork twice in three minutes: first Sobis hit the bar with a free kick and then Mark Gonzalez hit the post. Madrid rode their luck and six minutes from the end Baptista who had just come on for Sneijder, scored with an overhead kick to seal a 2-0 victory for the merengues.

Barcelona’s form continues to improve. Led by a mesmeric Leo Messi who scored twice in the first eleven minutes, they beat Zaragoza 4-1 and could easily have scored seven or eight. Playing without the injured Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Puyol, this was probably Barça’s best performance in over a year.

Iniesta and Deco both had excellent games while Leo Messi was quite simply phenomenal. Messi is surely the most in form player in the world at the moment, Kaka will probably deservedly win World Player Of The Year after his performances against Manchester United, but if Messi continues his meteoric rise he could well win it more than once in the future. For a full report on Barça-Zaragoza go to

Espanyol got their revenge for last May’s Uefa Cup Final, beating Sevilla 2-3 in the Sanchez Pizjuan. Sevilla pulled back a 0-2 deficit in the second half but a goal from Raul Tamudo in the 87th minute gave the visitors the three points. Sevilla have now lost three consecutive games and they may be suffering the effects of Antonio Puerta’s death, and they are definitely missing defender Javi Navarro who is out injured.

Valencia won their fourth game on the trot with a 2-1 win over strugglers Getafe. David Silva opened the scoring after goalkeeper Ustari, making his debut, made a mess of a Morientes cross. Ustai then got caught in no man’s land to allow David Villa the simplest of lobs to make it 2-0. Getafe pulled a goal back in the second half through Braulio but to no avail.

Villarreal continue to impress, and apart from their 0-5 defeat to Real Madrid, they have won every game. Goals from Nihat and Rossi earned them a 0-2 win over Racing Santander.

Atletico Madrid also won 0-2 in San Mames against Athletic Bilbao. Kun Agüero scored Atleti’s first with his fourth goal of the season. The second came from Fernando Torres’ replacement Diego Forlan who fired in a tremendous shot from outside the area. After a disappointing start to the season Atletico have moved into fifth place and are showing the form which should see them challenging for a place in Europe.

Valladolid must have thought they were also heading for an away win at Mallorca when they went in 0-2 up at half time through goals from Ogbeche and Victor, but Mallorca staged an amazing second half comeback to win 4-2 with goals from Nunes, Arango, Victor Casadesus and Aranga again.

Levante are still rooted to the bottom of the table after losing 4-1 to Osasuna. Walter Pandiani scored the first for Osasuna after 32 minutes only for Ettien to equalize two minutes later, but second half goals from Pandiani, Juanfran and Javi Garcia gave Osasuna a comfortable victory.

The other two games were both won by the visitors. Deportivo continue with their irregular form losing 0-2 to Recreativo whose goals came from Martins and Javi Guerrero. And Almeria won 0-1 in Murcia through a headed goal from Felipe Melo after a corner taken by Mané. Murcia ended the game with nine men after Gallardo and Regueiro were both sent off.

Real Madrid remain top with 13 points followed by Villarreal and Valencia on twelve, while Barcelona are fourth with eleven points. Equal top scorers with four goals each are Sneijder (Real Madrid), Kanoute (Sevilla), Aguero (At. Madrid), Rossi (Villarreal) and Messi (Barcelona).

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