If the result at Old Trafford looked beyond doubt when Carlos Tevez made it 2-0 to Manchester United on Saturday evening, absolutely no-one would have foreseen what was to come when Barcelona went in at half-time against Real Betis, leading by the same scoreline, having completely outclassed their opponents.
Barca looked every bit title contenders as they out-played Betis almost to the point of embarrassment, and took a two-goal lead through goals from Samuel Eto’o and Bojan Krcic. Betis stormed back, however, with a superb header from Edu and a stunning volley from centre-back Juanito drawing them level, before Edu slammed home the winner with a shot from distance.
All the talk before the match was about Barcelona’s Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho, excluded from the matchday squad and rumoured to be on his way out of the Nou Camp. Barca’s misery was compounded two hours later when Villareal sealed an emphatic 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid to move above Barca into second place, and on current form it is the side from Castellon who look the more likely to successfully challenge Real Madrid for the title.
On Sunday, Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1 with goals from Heinze, Raul and Gonzalo Higuain, and last season’s champions are now six points clear at the top.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta is widely reported to be planning sweeping changes at the end of the season; with Jose Mourinho’s agent sounding out Internazionale in an apparent effort to force a move from Barcelona, the pressure is mounting on Frank Rijkaard after an extraordinary night in Seville.
Elsewhere, Almeria’s decent run of form continued, a 2-1 win over Levante lifting them to 10th in the table. Osasuna recorded an impressive 2-0 win away at Getafe to pull away from the relegation places.
Meanwhile, a surprise 3-0 win away at Espanyol took Racing Santander to the lofty heights of fifth in the table – few would have expected them to perform quite so well this season.
By far the greatest disappointment of the season has been the performance of Valencia’s expensively-assembled and highly talented squad, who are currently languishing in mid-table. They were soundly beaten 3-0 at home by Real Mallorca, for whom Spanish striker Guiza scored twice.
Meanwhile relegation-threatened Recreativo failed to hold on to an early lead against Bilbao, who equalised in the 82nd minute to deny Recreativo a huge win. A hat-trick from Spanish youngster Xisco gave Deportivo La Coruna a 3-1 win over Murcia, who are struggling in 19th place.
By Houman Barekat