[SPAIN]Barcelona continued its revival with a third successive win, but after Leo Messi's controversial last-kick penalty winner in the 2-1 victory at 10-man Espanyol, the team was more concerned with condemning the behavior of its own fans.
With Barcelona losing 1-0 well beyond the hour mark, flares were launched from the away team's fans that landed in the home spectator section, and the game was halted for several minutes. A handful of Barcelona fans were later detained by police in connection with the incident. Barca's players, coach and president all "expressed their repulsion" at the violence, according to the team's official web site, which said it was time for "zero tolerance, whatever happens and whatever the cost ... in order for stadiums to be cleaned of this violence."
In the game itself, there was an element of luck involved in all three goals. Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes was clearly elbowed by Espanyol forward Luis Garciaas he attempted to clear a cross which he punched weakly straight to scorer Ferran Coro. Thierry Henry's equalizer with 10 minutes left owed more to a streaky deflection off Espanyol defender Daniel Jarque than it did to the striker's skill, while the tackle by Nicolas Pareja on Samuel Eto'o that led to Messi's game-winning penalty kick in the 13th minute of stoppage time was also open to debate. Pareja certainly played the ball first, but then came in on Eto'o from behind with his full weight to bring him down.
It was all too much for Espanyol President Daniel Sanchez Libre, who said that the league was a stitch-up to ensure that Barcelona and Real Madrid would always benefit from refereeing decisions and stay at the top. He called the Barcelona fans "pigs" who could have killed someone, while General Director Pedro Tomas claimed that the over-exuberant celebration of the Barcelona players after the winning goal had been a further incitement to trouble.
All of this relegated Ruud van Nistelrooy's clinical stoppage-time winner for Real Madrid at Real Betis to the lower news sections. Betis had leveled thanks to Sergio Garcia's first goal for the club that canceled out Gabriel Heinze's go-ahead goal for Real. It was a mixed day for Garcia, who had scored on the rebound from his own poorly taken penalty, but who was red-carded with six minutes left.
Villarreal stayed second on a goal from half-time substituteGiuseppe Rossi, whose goal direct from a corner was enough to scrape a 1-0 win at pointless whipping boys Sporting Gijon. American Jozy Altidore was not on the Villarreal roster. Valencia held on to first place with a 4-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna, including two goals from David Villa that took his season's total to six.
Real Madrid 12
Atletico Madrid 9 (4 games)
Sevilla 8 (4 games)
Athletic Bilbao 5
Deportivo La Coruna 5
Real Betis 2
Racing Santander 2
Sporting Gijon 9