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Barcelona quits showing mercy
by Ian Plenderleith, September 22nd, 2008 7AM



[SPAIN] With an abundance of attacking skill and a surfeit of frustration at scoring just one goal in its first two games (and that a penalty), Barcelona finally unleashed its real self on Sunday by thrashing Sporting Gijon, 6-1. And the Catalans were the road team.

The lineup of goalscorers alone is testimony to the team's strength in offense. Xavi, Samuel Eto'o, Seydou Keita, Andres Iniesta and two late strikes from Lionel Messi did not unfairly reflect the away team's overwhelming dominance of Gijon, who could only muster a Francisco Maldonado goal in response. Gijon has now shipped 12 goals in three games.

Valencia tops La Liga after a late goal from former Real Madrid striker Juan Mata gave it a 1-0 home win over Osasuna. Real moved up into sixth spot, one point off the leaders, with a 2-0 road win at Racing Santander on goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and the splendidly named Ruben de la Red.

Almeria is among the surprise early pace-setters, wedged into second place after beating Malaga 1-0 on a winner from Alvaro Negredo, another Real reject. It was also a good weekend for ex-Liverpool forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who scored twice as Atletico Madrid dealt Recreativo Huelva a 4-0 pasting.

Pity poor bottom-placed Gijon -- it visits Real in the midweek round of games being played Wednesday and Thursday. Barcelona entertains Real Betis, and Valencia travels to Malaga.


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