Barcelona looking better and better

[SPAIN] Barcelona took just nine minutes to beat Atletico Madrid, by which time they were 3-0 up in the Camp Nou. The final score of 6-1 seemed to almost let the visitors off lightly.

Goals from Rafael Marquez, a Samuel Eto'o penalty, and Leo Messi got the rout under way before Maxi Rodriguez pulled a goal back for Atletico. A second from Eto'o and a strike from Eidur Gudjohnsen made it 5-1 with an hour still to play. Substitute Thierry Henry finished things off in the second half. Barca coach Pep Guardiola paid tribute to Atletico's positive approach to the game, and said his own side had produced "a great performance that should help us convince ourselves of what we can do."

Villarreal has scored only half as many goals as Barcelona, but is four points ahead of the Catalans after a 2-1 home victory over Real Betis. Gonzalo Rodriguez and Joseba Llorente scored in the space of two second half minutes to overturn Damia Perez's first-half strike for Betis. Ahead of Villarreal at the top of the table on goal difference is Valencia, who scraped a 1-0 road victory at Real Valladolid, Manuel Fernandes the goalscorer.

Real Madrid came back from behind twice before halftime at home to Espanyol, with Raul finishing strongly on both occasions to make it 2-2 at the interval in a lively, attacking game. But the scoreboard remained static as the second half failed to live up to the first, in part thanks to Espanyol goalkeeper Idriss Kameni's superb save off a Ruud van Nistelrooy shot. Real is fifth, equal on points with fourth-place Barcelona, with both teams having scored a league-leading 18 goals each.

There were big wins for Sevilla, the 4-0 conqueror of Athletic Bilbao, and Malaga, which won by the same score at Recreativo Huelva, Portuguese midfielder Eliseu notching a brace. Hapless Sporting Gijon, leaker of 20 goals in its first five games, finally took its first points of the season in a 2-0 win at Mallorca and moved off the bottom.

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHT: With his team 5-1 up, Thierry Henry maybe had to show he hasn't lost his touch when he came off the bench with the game as good as over. His instinctive first-time strike from long distance was the best of the game's several worthy goals.



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