No Real upset for Zaragoza
Barça beats Mallorca; three-goal victory over Villarreal keeps Espanyol in third.
7 January 2008
MADRID - Heeding Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto'o's pre-game call to "win, win, win" regardless of how, Barcelona did just that when it edged out Eto'o's former team Mallorca 2-0 on Saturday night, although Barça's third away win of the season was begotten without its customary zest.
That the victory was less than pretty was echoed post-game by Andrés Iniesta, Gabriel Milito and Eto'o in references to the importance of the "three points" above all else. These three points serve in keeping the gap between second-placed Barça and Liga leader Real Madrid - a gap dealt a six-point swing in Real's favor in its victory over Barça before the Christmas break - at seven, after the latter also earned those important three, beating Zaragoza 2-0 a home on Sunday.
For Barça, Rafa Márquez's header found the net on a corner from Xavi two-thirds into the game, breaking what was an uphill battle for the league's number two team - playing without injured star forwards Leo Messi and Ronaldinho - which was kept out of the opposing area for most of the game.
At 1-0, just a minute before the final whistle, Eto'o confirmed the value of his return to fitness, firing a canon from outside the area - his third goal in as many games - fed by one of the night's prettier team efforts sparked by youngster Bojan Krkic.
Although Barça's win keeps it in the title race, the surprise title contender is turning out to be Barça's cross-town rival, Espanyol, which thrashed Villarreal 3-0 to strengthen its third place overall in the standings.
Having not suffered a loss in their last 14 encounters, Espanyol is one of the league's most overlooked gems, with the quartet of forwards Raúl Tamudo and Luis García, and central fielders Valdo and Iván de la Peña giving offensive teeth to an incredibly well-balanced team.
Tamudo's two goals bring him to 10 total, Liga-leading numbers equalled only by Sevilla's Luis Fabiano before he played in the Sunday night derby against Betis. The goals also give "the forward who never misses," Espanyol's club record.
Also not missing much on Sunday was Atlético de Madrid, whose 3-0 away win over a struggling Deportivo put the club in fourth place overall, two points above Villarreal.
Other results: Getafe 0-3 Valladolid; Recreativo 1-1 Almería; Valencia 0-0 Levante; Murcia 2-0 Osasuna; Racing 1-0 Athletic
[Copyright El Pais / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news