Barcelona, Villarreal benefit from 'Liga' weekend festival of goals
Henry leads Barcelona to 4-0 victory as Espanyol sees winning streak end.14 January 2008
MADRID - Before the nineteenth round of Liga play, only two points differentiated eight middle-of-the-pack teams. Marking the half-way point of the soccer season this week, the fight for internal hierarchy was played out in a number of high-intensity, high-scoring games.
Both smack in the middle with 21 points before their match, Valladolid topped Recreativo 3-1, pushing the former up to within two points of Sevilla.
Also tied at 21 pre-game points, Zaragoza and Mallorca will move together to 22 points, after their high-energy encounter (2-2) in the Aragonese capital failed to separate them.
In the top half of the league, a good day for fifth-placed Villarreal saw its recent winless streak snapped with a 4-3 victory over struggling Deportivo, as well as valuable points being won back on Espanyol, which suffered its first loss (1-0) in 15 games at the hands of recent first-division newcomer, Almería. Villarreal is now within one point of Barcelona's second side.
Although he didn't score for Barcelona's first side, Thierry Henry presence was felt in the four goals netted on Murcia (4-0); goals which also put a lid on some early fan booing at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Henry, with forwards Ronaldinho and Leo Messi on the bench, was able to show his ability to lead the offence with assists to Bojan and Samuel Eto'o, as well as turning up the on-field intensity - one of the reason's Barça paid the big bucks to bring him from English team Arsenal last summer.
With so much middle-pack parity, Sevilla will have a hard time swallowing its 2-0 away loss to Athletic Bilbao, especially dangerous for the Andalusian squad with teams like Valladolid breathing down its neck. An under-equipped Sevilla visibly missed its key offensive threats, playing without goal-scorer Frédéric Kanouté and Seydou Keita, both gone to the African Cup of Nations with Mali, as well as missing La Liga's goal leader, Luis Fabiano. The absences, however, were not an excuse for Sevilla trainer Manolo Jiménez, who said: "We can't attribute the loss to missing players because we are a Champions League team."
The win was well received by the San Mamés crowd, players and coach Joaquín Caparrós who, after chalking up only one home win in nine chances, considered it "time to give the fans a dose of happiness."
And who better to fall surprise victim to Athletic's new direct attack and pressure style of play than the team that Caparrós led to qualify in two UEFA Cup tournaments at the end of his five-year tenure - from 2000 to 2005 - at Sevilla.
Post-game Caparrós tipped his hat to David López, who not only contained one of Sevilla's greatest all-around threats, Dani Alves, but also "created shots on goal."
Other results: Betis 3-2 Getafe ; Osasuna 0-2 Racing
[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news