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October 27, 2009

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Barca stretches lead after thumping Zaragoza 6-1

SEYDOU Keita hit a hat-trick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted twice to lead Barcelona to a 6-1 thrashing of Real Zaragoza and send the La Liga champion three points clear of Real Madrid on Sunday.

Real and Barca had both lost in Europe in midweek but after a depleted Madrid side drew 0-0 at Sporting Gijon on Saturday, Pep Guardiola's team grabbed its chance to pull emphatically away at the top of the standings.

Barcelona has 22 points from eight matches to Real's 19, and Sevilla remains in third, three points further back, after being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Espanyol on Saturday.

Zaragoza kept a dominant Barcelona at bay for the first 24 minutes at the Nou Camp until Keita leapt to nod Lionel Messi's precise cross into the top left-hand corner.

Ibrahimovic doubled its lead five minutes later with a thunderous, long-range free-kick that Juan Pablo Carrizo could only palm into the roof of the net and the Sweden striker then turned provider just before the break.

Xavi sent him clear on the left and he squared for Keita to thump the ball into the empty net.

The Mali midfielder returned the favor 11 minutes after the break when he crossed for Ibrahimovic to volley past Carrizo for his seventh La Liga goal, taking him joint top of the scoring charts, before Jorge Lopez beat Victor Valdes with a low drive.

Lionel Messi made up for several missed chances when he lifted the ball over Carrizo for Barca's fifth, and his sixth of the season, and Keita completed the rout with another fine header in the 86th.

Guardiola said criticism after Tuesday's Champions League defeat to Russian champion Rubin Kazan at the Nou Camp had helped focus the players' minds and he paid tribute to the raw power of Ibrahimovic's free-kicks.

David Villa netted his seventh goal of the season and Pablo Hernandez scored with a superb lob as Valencia climbed to fourth with a 3-0 victory at Almeria. Villarreal claimed a 2-1 home win over Malaga for its first league victory this season.


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