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Barcelona hits five, Villarreal and Atletico share eight (VIDEO)
by Ian Plenderleith, October 27th, 2008 7AM



[SPAIN] Villarreal and Valencia are the only two unbeaten teams in La Liga, but both were held to ties at the weekend, allowing Barcelona and Real Madrid to close the gap at the top. Two points separate Valencia in first place from Villarreal in fourth, with Barca and Real sandwiched between.

Villarreal has the consolation of having been involved in the game of the weekend, its net-straining 4-4 home draw with Atletico Madrid. Atletico went 2-0 up by halftime on goals from Simao and a cracking snapshot from Diego Forlan. After the break, however, with Atletico reduced to 10 men, Villarreal not only dragged itself back into the game when Atletico goalkeeper Leo Franco fumbled a shot from Marcos Senna, it absolutely throttled the initiative by moving into a 4-2 lead by the 68th minute, including a goal from NJ-raised Giuseppe Rossi. But Atletico fought back with a late goal five minutes from time, again from Simao, and its equalizing fourth one minute later from Raul Garcia. (American Jozy Altidore was not allowed on to take part in the fun and could only watch from the stands.)

Athletic Bilbao also clawed back a two-goal lead on the road to Real, but succumbed to a winner from French-Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain, his second of the game and his fifth of the season. The win didn't prevent Real coach Bernd Schuster complaining about the referee, who awarded Bilbao a penalty. "Decisions made by the referee hurt us and were detrimental to our game," said Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster. "We were nervous after the incomprehensible penalty. It was good that it happened before half-time because we were able to start all over again." He said Real was the better team overall in the 3-2 win "and we should have finished it off earlier."

He maybe had rival Barcelona in mind, which had scored five goals against Almeria before halftime, then took its foot off the gas, perhaps out of sympathy. Or perhaps Almeria's coach had reminded his side at the interval that it's not against the laws of the game to try and tackle the opposition. Samuel Eto'o with a hat trick, Thierry Henry and Daniel Alves were the beneficiaries of the amateur-looking first-half Almeria performance in the 5-0 win.

Barcelona has 24 goals from its eight games, despite scoring only once in the season's opening two rounds. Coach Pep Guardiola said the thrashings that his team has been handing out were "not normal," but deviated from this threat to say something interesting by adding: "What is important is to win each game as it comes and we'll know where we are at the end of the League." Thanks to the invention of league tables, we certainly will.

David Villa rescued a point for Valencia in its 1-1 tie on the road to lowly Recreativo Huelva. Sevilla blew its chance to keep pace with the front-runners by falling at home to Malaga on a single goal from Adrian Alvarez. And Sporting Gijon, so mercilessly hammered by Real (6-1) and Barcelona (7-1) last month, continued its recovery by climbing to 13th place with a handy 3-0 road win at Deportivo La Coruna.

HIGHLIGHT (VIDEO): All eight goals in the pulsating Villarreal vs Atletico game.



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