Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 18 News List

LFP: Barcelona raise pressure on Real

AFP , MADRID

Barcelona’s defender Carles Puyol, top, vies for the ball with Deportivo’s goalkeeper Aranzub during their match at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Barcelona were back to their brilliant best, crushing Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday to move 15 points clear of Real Madrid and 12 ahead of Sevilla at the top of the Spanish first division.

A mesmerizing first half display saw Barcelona score three times with Lionel Messi, voted second behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the World Player of the Year award last Monday, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o all on the scoresheet. Henry grabbed his 11th goal of the season with eight minutes left while Eto’o took his personal tally to 18 with a second from the penalty spot in the closing stages.

The Catalan giants are now 17 matches unbeaten in the league and have set a new record of 50 points at the halfway point of the season. Real set the previous best of 47 points last season.

“It has been a good first half of the season,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. “We have lots of points, have only lost once [in the league] and scored lots of goals. “We haven’t won anything but we are another small step closer to our goal.”

A late goal from Renato helped Sevilla defeat promoted Numancia 1-0 in Saturday’s late game.

Brazilian Renato netted an 81st minute winner to guide Sevilla into second although champions Real had a chance to replace them with a home victory over bottom side Osasuna yesterday.

Barcelona struggled to defeat strugglers Osasuna 3-2 the previous weekend, but Guardiola kept faith with his first choice 11 leaving Andres Iniesta on the bench.

“The team is working so well at the moment,” midfielder Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast said. “The coach is a winner and he transmits that to us. After two years without a trophy we want one and so do the fans.”

Henry should have scored after just 30 seconds with Messi creating the chance in the penalty area, but the French striker shot straight at the goalkeeper. Eto’o then almost scored on the quarter hour mark, dummying two defenders only to scuff his shot.

The inevitable breakthrough came on 21 minutes with Messi dribbling at speed before guiding his shot in off the post for his 12th of the season. Henry went into double figures for the campaign six minutes later, heading in a pinpoint cross from Dani Alves.

Messi should have scored his second with a clear header, but missed the target and Eto’o spurned another great chance. The Cameroon forward finally got his goal after 41 minutes with a tap-in.

Henry made it 4-0 on 82 minutes and Eto’o completed the scoring with a late penalty after goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia chopped down Carles Puyol and was red-carded.

While all is going Barca’s way, Real had a rough last week, with head Ramon Calderon stepping down on Friday following allegations that he rigged voting at the club’s last annual general assembly. Calderon, who left in tears, had come under fire for his failure to come good on promises to land top transfer targets Ronaldo and Kaka.

“I am leaving with my hands clean and my conscience clear, with a lot less money and health than when I took up my mandate in 2006,” Calderon said.

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