Barcelona top for Christmas after derby demolition

Last Updated: Dec 19, 2010, 11:37 AM IST

Madrid: Champions Barcelona will sit top of
the Spanish first division for the Christmas break after
notching a tenth successive league victory with a resounding
5-1 win over city rivals Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat
stadium.

Spanish World Cup winners Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa
grabbed two goals apiece with compatriot Xavi Hernandez, one
of three players shortlisted for the Ballon D`Or crown,
netting the other as Barcelona triumphed in the Catalan derby,
and opened up a five-point lead over second-placed Real
Madrid yesterday.

Barcelona signed off 2010 in the perfect fashion, ending
Espanyol`s 100 percent home record emphatically with a 5-1
thrashing and putting pressure on Real to win their
game-in-hand against Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu on
Sunday.

Real have won all seven of their home matches in the
league while Sevilla`s confidence is rock bottom after four
successive league defeats.

Espanyol had a perfect seven wins and were flying high in
fourth, however, Barcelona turned in a mesmerising display
making it a remarkable 26 goals in their last five league
matches with a drubbing of their local rivals to maintain
their flawless away record with an eighth win.

"My team never cease to surprise me," purred Barcelona
coach Pep Guardiola. "Espanyol had only conceded two goals at
home in the league before this match and it isn`t a
coincidence that they are up near the top of the table.”

"It is a great night for us because not only did we beat
our local rival, but we also beat a very good team."

Barca should have scored in the eighth minute with Dani
Alves setting up Lionel Messi, but the Argentine somehow fired
over the goal to let Espanyol off the hook.

Messi made amends on 18 minutes by creating the opening
goal with Pedro showing neat control to lay the ball off and
Messi fed a incisive pass back into his team-mate`s path.
Pedro raced clear and showed great composure to drill home.

The hosts were carved open again on 29 minutes as
Barcelona released Xavi on the right. The playmaker watched as
his centre ricocheted back to him and showed great technique
to drive a volley into the opposite corner.

Barcelona made the running after the break and made it
3-0 close to the hour mark with Messi again the creator.

The Argentine dribbled at incredible speed to leave three
opponents in his slipstream and goalkeeper Carlos Kameni
spilled his shot which allowed the alert Pedro to prod in the
rebound.

Pablo Osvaldo quickly pulled a goal back for the home
side, but Villa registered his tenth and 11th league goals of
the campaign on 75 and 83 minutes to cap a memorable win.

It was an extra special night for Barcelona star Andres
Iniesta who was warmly applauded by the home crowd that
remembered his touching world Cup final tribute to former
Espanyol captain Dani Jarque - who died of a heart attack on
August 8, 2009, at the age of 26.

After scoring the extra-time winning goal for Spain in
the final, Iniesta lifted up his jersey to reveal a t-shirt
for his close friend Jarque, declaring: "Dani Jarque, always
with us".

In other matches, Valencia took advantage of Espanyol`s
defeat coming from behind to win 2-1 at promoted Real Sociedad
on Saturday.

Argentine midfielder Tino Costa scored a terrific
equaliser before Aritz Aduriz grabbed a stoppage time winner
as Valencia moved above Espanyol into fourth.

Earlier yesterday, Villarreal maintained their impressive
unbeaten home record with a 3-1 win over Real Mallorca at El
Madrigal to secure third place for the festive break.

Villarreal made it 23 points from a possible 25 at home
and Juan Carlos Garrido`s side move five points clear of
fourth-placed Espanyol.

Elsewhere struggling Sporting Gijon salvaged a point with
Diego Castro scoring an 89th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw at
Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

Sporting will be happy with the point having not won in
the league since mid-October and stay second from bottom of
the table.

Bureau Report

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