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Barcelona, Madrid win in Spanish league

SAMUEL Eto'o scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season yesterday to help Barcelona rout Malaga 6-0 and maintain its six-point lead over Real Madrid in the Spanish league.

Xavi Hernandez, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Daniel Alves also scored in a strong display which brought Barcelona its third straight victory.

Earlier, Madrid beat Almeria 3-0, getting two goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and another from Marcelo for the defending champion's 12th win in 13 league matches.

With 10 games remaining, Barcelona leads the league with 69 points, followed by Madrid with 63 and Sevilla with 54.

Also yesterday, it was: Mallorca 2, Atletico Madrid 0; Racing Santander 0, Valencia 1; Deportivo La Coruna 1, Real Betis 1; Getafe 2, Recreativo Huelva 1; Osasuna 1, Espanyol 0; and Numancia 2, Sporting Gijon 1.

Seventh-place Malaga, promoted at the end of last season, went into the game at Camp Nou as the season's surprise team but was quickly swept away by Barcelona's attacking verve.

Xavi put Barcelona on the way in the 19th minute when he clipped a low shot home from an incisive through ball from Eto'o.

Messi sent a rising shot to add the second after a trademark dash from the touchline which took him past two defenders. The 25th-minute goal was the Argentine's 30th in all competitions this season.

Xavi then found Henry, who rounded Malaga goalkeeper Inaki Goitia and slid the ball home for the home team's third goal in the 32nd. The France striker has scored 15 times in the league this season.

Malaga's misery grew in the 44th when Eto'o crowned a flowing movement to score his first goal of the match.

Barcelona took six minutes of the second half to increase its lead, with Alves running in to head the ball over Goitia from Andres Iniesta's chip.

The goal rush was completed in the 57th when Henry's pass enabled Eto'o to slide the ball home from close range after Goitia had blocked Sylvinho's initial swerving shot. The goal was Barcelona's 85th in the league this season.

Barcelona's only disappointments were the injuries which forced midfielders Yaya Toure and Iniesta off the field in the 25th and 60th minutes, respectively.

Almeria's loss was a disappointment for Hugo Sanchez, one of Madrid's greatest strikers, who was making his first appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as a Spanish league coach.

Sanchez, who scored 207 goals in 283 matches for Madrid in the 1980s and 90s, was given a warm reception from Madrid supporters. On his only other visit to Madrid as a coach - leading Mexican team Pumas UNAM in a friendly in 2004 - his team won 1-0.

Sanchez, who was forced to omit top scorer Alvaro Negredo due to the terms of the striker's transfer from Madrid, watched as Marcelo seize a loose ball and scored the home team's first goal from outside the penalty area in the 24th minute.

Almeria battled hard for an equalizer and forced Madrid into several uncomfortable moments, which included an unusual yellow card for captain Raul Gonzalez for a sliding tackle on left back Mane Jimenez.

Marcelo, whose form has improved since coach Juande Ramos recently modified his position from defense to midfield, then angled a shot onto the bar in the 50th and saw his goalbound drive blocked by goalkeeper Diego Alves two minutes later.

However, Alves could do nothing to stop Huntelaar from volleying into the roof of the Almeria net from the resulting corner.

The Netherlands striker added another in the 66th when he sidefooted a volley home after Alves had blocked a shot by Arjen Robben.

Huntelaar's goals took his tally to eight since his transfer from Ajax at the end of last year.

Fifth-place Atletico's loss at Mallorca was its first in four league games. Striker Aritz Aduriz lobbed home the first goal in the 24th minute, with substitute Gonzalo Castro adding the second in the 90th.

Atletico defender John Heitinga was carried off on a stretcher after being fitted with a neck brace just before halftime following a clash of heads with Mallorca's David Navarro. Atletico said the Netherlands international had a concussion and was taken to the hospital for tests.

Cash-strapped Valencia's victory at Santander was only its second in 11 league games. Presenting a depleted team, which lacked injured Spain internationals David Villa, David Silva and suspended Carlos Marchena, Valencia was further set back when defender Alexis Ruano was sent off early in the second half.

However, substitute Juanma Mata scored in the 78th, five minutes after he took the field.

Deportivo, which is winless in six games, got its opening goal from midfielder Joan Verdu in the ninth minute, with Betis striker Sergio Garcia leveling in the 33rd.

Cristian Maidana scored for Recreativo in the 47th, with Roberto Soldado scoring in the 64th and 66th.

Last-place Espanyol's problems worsened with a loss at fellow struggler Osasuna, with Javad Nekounam heading the winning goal in injury time, and Numancia eased its relegation fears with a hard-fought victory over Gijon.

On Saturday, Sevilla beat Valladolid 4-1 and Villarreal defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-0.


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