A rampant display of one-touch attacking soccer saw Spanish champion Real Madrid tear apart bottom-placed Sporting Gijon, 7-1. At times it seemed as
though the team was playing merely to top the previous goal for quality.
Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart
scored a memorable hat trick. It
started with a sweet first-time volley from a Raul
header that in turn had been nodded on from a Ruben de la Red
Yet this superb effort was surpassed by the Dutchman's second goal, a left-footed back heel that flummoxed goalkeeper Sergio Sanchez
on another de la Red
pass from the endline. Flowing moves lead to van der Vaart's third and Arjen Robben
's fine finish that put the home side 5-0 up. Raul's delicious
chip to complete the scoring at 7-1 overshadowed his earlier volley on a rebound following a savage shot from Robben that the battered Sanchez could only parry into the air.
"The game unfolded as it had to," said Real coach Bernd Schuster
. "Everything was in our favor in the first half and we had to continue
exploiting that. Many people wanted to watch soccer tonight. I hope our goal-scoring streak continues."
Real's performance managed to upstage what had been a superb earlier
game between Barcelona and Real Betis (3-2 for the Catalans). After taking the lead with two first-half goals from Samuel Eto'o
, the second set after a run
from Lionel Messi
, the home team seemed in complete control. But Betis came back after halftime through a free kick that Argentine substitute Luciano Monzon
smacked straight through Barcelona's defensive wall, then equalized when Jose Mari
's subtle touch took
him past the static Barca backline to finish in the far corner. This prompted Barca coach Pep Guardiola
to make a triple substitution that duly paid dividends
-- striker Eidur Gudjohnsen
came off the bench to score the winner with 10 minutes left.
Elsewhere, Villarreal beat Racing Santander 2-0 at home
to take them to the top of the table, but there wasn't even a place on the seven-strong bench for American Jozy Altidore
. Atletico Madrid is third, behind
Real, after winning 2-1 on the road at FC Getafe, while Sevilla is fourth after topping Espanyol 2-0. Barcelona moved up to fifth, while sixth-place Valencia play Thursday, at Malaga.