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Eto'o brace helps Barca to 3-1 win over Sporting

SAMUEL Eto'o scored two first-half goals to help Barcelona defeat Sporting Gijon 3-1 yesterday and maintain its 12-point lead at the top of the Spanish league.

Daniel Alves also netted in Barcelona's win at Camp Nou, its 10th straight victory which extended its unbeaten run to the 21 league games since its opening-round defeat against Numancia in August.

With 16 games of the season remaining, Barcelona has 59 points and is firm favorite to win its first league title for three seasons. Defending champion Real Madrid, which has won its past seven matches, is next with 47.

Earlier, Diego Forlan scored twice and Sergio Aguero added the other goal to give Atletico Madrid a 3-0 victory over Recreativo Huelva and a winning start for new coach Abel Resino.

In a late game, Valencia lost 1-0 at lowly Osasuna and missed the chance to move up to third place. Valencia stayed fourth with 37 points, one less than Sevilla.

Also Sunday, it was: Villarreal 2, Numancia 1; Malaga 3, Almeria 2; Valladolid 2, Athletic Bilbao 1; Getafe 1, Espanyol 1; and Mallorca 1, Deportivo La Coruna 1.

Barcelona won 6-1 in Gijon in the corresponding fixture last September and the league leader had the chances to repeat the scoreline.

Striker Eto'o broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute after Xavi Hernandez had mounted a swift counterattack before supplying Thierry Henry on the left. The France striker sent the ball across the goal for Eto'o to score from close range.

The goal was Barcelona's 100th in official competitions this season.

Eto'o doubled the lead in the 40th when he angled his shot home from a pass by Lionel Messi, taking his tally to 21 goals this season.

Right back Alves lashed a rising shot home from an angle after a charge into the penalty area to make it 3-0.

Gijon midfielder Kike Mateo trimmed Barcelona's lead with a low shot from the edge of the area three minutes later.

Resino, a former Atletico goalkeeper who left second division Castellon this week to replace the fired Javier Aguirre, saw Aguero open the scoring in the fourth minute of the game at Recreativo's Nuevo Colombino stadium.

Aguero's passes then provided Forlan with angled shots which brought further goals in the 28th and the 36th minutes against a Recreativo side which had won its previous four home games.

Atletico's victory was its first in six matches and lifted it into sixth place with 35 points.

Osasuna climbed out of the relegation zone with its hard-earned victory over Valencia.

Defender Miguel Flano scored the winning goal in the 57th minute with a diving header from a floated free kick by Patxi Punal.

Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi scored twice to help his fifth-place team beat struggling Numancia for only its second win in nine league games.

Rossi took his season's tally to 11 with goals in the 16th and the 68th, with Carlos Aranda replying for Numancia in the 40th.

Malaga rallied to beat Almeria after trailing to headed goals by forwards Kalu Uche and Alvaro Negredo in the 26th and 45th minutes.

Malaga forward Albert Luque reduced the deficit in the 48th, with substitute Salva Ballesta netting in the 64th and 75th to lift his team into seventh place. Almeria defender Mane Jimenez was dismissed in the 85th.

Bilbao suffered only its second defeat in the past 10 games when it lost at Valladolid. Victor Fernandez converted a 38th-minute penalty and then fired home in the 59th, with Pablo Orzaiz replying in the 64th.

Bilbao captain Fran Yeste was sent off for a push in injury time.

Espanyol's draw at Getafe leaves them without a victory in 13 games. Ivan Alonso, making his debut for Espanyol following his move from Murcia, took just eight minutes to score, only for Getafe striker Roberto Soldado to equalize 18 minutes later.

Espanyol played the final 25 minutes with 10 men following the sending off of defender Marc Torrejon.

Mallorca striker Aritz Aduriz headed his team into 56th-minute lead, with Deportivo midfielder Joan Verdu leveling with a 77th-minute penalty. Mallorca finished with 10 men after defender Enrique Corrales was dismissed in the 82nd.

On Saturday, Madrid beat Racing Santander 1-0, while Sevilla lost 2-1 against crosstown rival Real Betis.


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