MADRID - Samuel Eto'o helped Barcelona stay top of the Primera Liga by scoring four first-half goals as the leaders crushed Valladolid 6-0 at the Nou Camp on Saturday. The striker took his league tally for the season to 13 and matched Gonzalo Higuain's earlier heroics for Real Madrid when the Argentine striker scored all four goals as they came back with 10 men to beat promoted Malaga 4-3 at the Bernabeu. Barca's eighth straight league win gives them 25 points from 10 games, two ahead of champions Real in second. Eto'o raced through to beat two defenders and open the scoring for Barca in the 12th minute before doubling their lead on the half-hour with a volley after a wonderful flowing move. He picked up Lionel Messi's pass to round the keeper for the third in the 42nd and slotted home the fourth two minutes later after the Argentina forward's surging run was blocked and the ball broke free for the Cameroon forward. Eidur Gudjohnsen netted a delicate chip in the 71st and a sublime passing move ended with Aleksandr Hleb squaring for France's Thierry Henry to stab home the sixth near the end. FIGHTING SPIRIT While Barca's victory was a one-sided affair full of intricate passing moves, Real's win owed more to their gritty fighting spirit as they narrowly avoided making it four games without a victory in all competitions. The injury-hit side were under pressure to appease the Bernabeu faithful who had whistled the team during Wednesday's 2-0 Champions League defeat at home to Juventus. They got off to a bad start when Malaga's Portuguese midfielder Eliseu dribbled off the wing past two defenders. When his pull-back was fired against the post he put away the rebound. The home team responded quickly with Higuain netting after Francesc Arnau could only parry Marcelo's shot but a low cross from Duda caught Real defender Gabriel Heinze flat-footed in the 18th minute leaving Malaga striker Nabil Baha free to score. Higuain came to the rescue from the penalty spot after a handball on the edge of the area, but Real were reduced to 10 men when defender Sergio Ramos stepped on Eliseu's chest after a challenge. Duda was fouled in the area and Apono drilled home a penalty to restore Malaga's advantage, but the lead only lasted a minute until Higuain beat Arnau from well outside the area. The home crowd came to life and Higuain was bundled over for a penalty on the counter-attack in the 78th which the 20-year-old put away on the rebound, and both sides came close to adding another goal in the frantic closing stages.
8 November 2008
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