La Liga Week 19: Henry finally finds his form for Barcelona

Thierry Henry played his best game so far for Football Club Barcelona in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Murcia. Henry didn’t get on the scoresheet but he set up goals for 17-year-old Bojan Krkic and for Samuel Eto’o who marked his last game for Barça before joining up with the Cameroon national team with a brace. Frank Rijkaard rested some players with an eye on Tuesday second leg cup match with Sevilla, so there was a start for some of the less used players such as Zambrotta, Thuram and Sylvinho.

Barça struggled to take control of the game but Eidur Gudjohnsen opened the scoring in the 27th minute, sidefooting a volley past Notario after Zambrotta’s cross. In the second half Barça were far more dominating and Henry was dazzling on the left side of attack, creating the second and third goals. Eto’o scored the fourth after good work on the right from Giovani dos Santos who came on as a sub for Bojan. For a full report on the game click here.

Real Madrid completed an excellent first half of the season with a 0-2 victory over bottom club Levante. There wasn’t as much difference between the sides as might have been expected but Madrid do have Ruud Van Nistlerooy who scored another two goals to take his season’s tally in La Liga to eleven goals.

Iker Casillas overcame stomach problems to play his 58th consecutive game in goal. As reserve keeper Dudek had a slight calf strain Madrid were in the unusual position of having two goalies on the subs bench: Dudek and Codina. Bernd Schuster left Guti on the bench again and preferred to play Gago in place of Diarra; however, Madrid’s midfield failed to click and chances were few and far between in the first half.

Madrid improved after Guti replaced Baptista in the second half. Robinho came close after 70 minutes when he hit the post, but the leaders had to rely on a gifted penalty with 15 minutes remaining to take the lead when Serrano handled Higuain’s cross. Ruud stepped up and made no mistake from the spot. Then in the dying minutes the Dutchman produced a fine shot from outside the area that went just inside the post.

There was a first defeat in 14 league games for Espanyol who lost 1-0 at Almeria. Raul Tamudo was playing his 300th game for Espanyol but will want to forget a disappointing performance. Almeria deservedly won but had to wait until the 87th minute when Bruno’s free kick was knocked back across the goalmouth by Negredo for Kalu Uche to score his second goal of the season.

Atletico Madrid took advantage of Espanyol’s defeat to move into third place beating Valencia 1-0 in the Vicente Calderon. Kun Agüero scored Atletico’s goal after 27 minutes and Valencia had several chances to equalize in the second half including two attempts from Zigic that hit the woodwork. Valencia showed signs of improvement but have still only one league victory since Ronald Koeman took over.

One of the most talked about incidents this week happened on Friday when Deportivo’s two main goalkeepers clashed after training. According to Israeli keeper Dudu Aouate, his rival the Uruguayan Gustavo Munua came over to him asking “What are you looking at?” Munua then punched Aouate leaving him needing eight stitches around his eye. Munua has not yet made any comment on the incident.

After the incident neither keeper was chosen to play this weekend: stand-in Fabri conceded four as Depor went down 4-3 at Villarreal. Depor twice took the lead through a Sergio penalty and Pablo Amo, but Villarreal hit back through Rossi and then Nihat who scored twice before Tomasson made it 4-2 from the penalty spot. Guardado scored with an exquisite chip in the last minute but it was too late to salvage anything. Villarreal stay in fifth place but are now just a point behind Espanyol.

Racing stay sixth after their 0-2 win at Osasuna, and they are now five points clear of seventh place Valencia. Osasuna were on top in the first half but couldn’t find the net. Racing reacted in the second half and gradually took control of the game. Two goals in the 81st and 82nd minutes from Colsa and Pablo Alvarez sealed the three points for the visitors. Osasuna now find themselves in trouble in the relegation zone.

Sevilla’s topsy-turvy season continued with a poor performance at Athletic Bilbao. Yeste and Susueta scored the goals in a 2-0 win to give Athletic only their second league win this season at San Mames. Sevilla were without several first-teamers and to make matters worse Escude was sent off at the start of the second half for using his elbow when jumping for a high ball with Aduriz; he will now miss the trip to Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Sevilla’s rivals Betis fared better beating Getafe 3-2. Pavone scored twice and Edu once to put Betis into a commanding 3-0 lead after an hour, but Getafe hit back with goals from De La Red and Manu Del Moral and in the last ten minutes they came close to an equalizer, but Betis held on thanks to a good performance from goalkeeper Ricardo. Betis now move out of the relegation zone and are level on points with Getafe.

Zaragoza and Mallorca shared four goals at La Romareda. Varela put the visitors in front after 17 minutes before Diego Milito scored twice to put Zaragoza 2-1 up. Dani Güiza, on as a second half substitute, scored his ninth goal of the campaign to make the final score 2-2. Both teams are now on 22 points, only two points above third from bottom Osasuna. Zaragoza coach Victor Fernandez was sacked after the game as Zaragoza have now gone nine games without a victory.

Finally, Joseba Llorente put in the performance of the week, scoring a hat-trick in Valladolid’s 3-1 win over Recreativo. Camuñas got Recreativo’s consolation goal. The victory takes Valladolid up to ninth place in the table.

Top Six: Real Madrid 47 points, Barcelona 40, Atletico Madrid 37, Espanyol 36, Villarreal 35, Racing Santander 32.

Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 12; Diego Milito (Zaragoza) 11; Van Nistlerooy (Real Madrid) 11; Tamudo (Espanyol) 10; Nihat (Villarreal) 10.

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