La Liga Week 9: Barcelona and Real Madrid struggle but win to top the table

Thierry Henry finally scored a league goal at Camp Nou as Barcelona struggled to overcome newly promoted Almeria. Barça move into second place but remain two points behind leaders Real Madrid who beat Deportivo 3-1 at the Bernabeu.

Henry is still having problems to adapt to his Barcelona team mates, but he was in the right place at the right time after Giovani dos Santos had been blocked by Cobeño, the Almeria goalie. Henry only had to shoot past a defender on the line to give Barça the lead.

Leo Messi started the game on the bench after suffering a slight muscle strain this week, but with fifteen minutes to go he came on for a disappointing Ronaldinho and scored from the penalty spot after what looked like a dive from Giovani. There were successful returns to the team after injury for Gianluca Zambrotta, Toure Yaya and Rafa Marquez. Full report on Barçelona-Almeria.

Real Madrid also struggled at home against inferior opposition. Deportivo caught the Madrid defence sleeping in the first minute and Xisco put the visitors ahead. Ruud Van Nistlerooy equalised soon after from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Guardado.

For the first hour things were pretty even but then Schuster decided to bring on Raul for Saviola who had unexpectedly started the game, and Madrid began to look more dangerous. First Robinho hit the bar, and then with eleven minutes to go a dangerous pass from Guti to Raul was just intercepted by a defender, but the ball fell to Van Nistlerooy who faced with the advancing goalkeeper squared the ball back to Raul who side-footed the ball home.

Sergio was then sent off after receiving a second yellow for a blatant body check on Guti. In the dying minutes another superb pass from Guti found Robinho who brilliantly rounded the keeper to make it 3-1.

Sevilla‘s new coach Manolo Jiminez got off to an excellent start with a 3-0 home win over a disappointing Valencia. Sevilla’s performance suggested that they would not be missing Juande Ramos for long. Freddie Kanoute scored the first after a bad mistake by Albiol, and then two goals in the last twenty minutes from Poulsen and Luis Fabiano sealed a deserved win.

Mallorca and Espanyol shared a 2-2 draw at the Ono stadium. Arango scored an excellent volley to put the islanders in front but then he scored an own goal at the other end for Espanyol’s equalizer. Raul Tamudo made it 1-2 from the penalty spot after Ballesteros was harshly judged to have brought him down, to make things worse for Ballesteros he was sent off for the challenge. Espanyol could not capitalize on their advantage and after 55 minutes they too were reduced to ten men when Clemente was sent off. Guiza made it 2-2 with twenty minutes to go. There was good news for Espanyol as Ivan De La Peña came on for the last twenty minutes after missing more than three months through injury.

Zaragoza took their unbeaten home run in the league to sixteen games by soundly beating Villarreal 4-1. Oliviera put the home team in front in the first half with his fifth of the season, and then second half goals from Oscar, Diego Milito(pen) and Sergio Garcia made it 4-0 before Robert Pires got a consolation goal ten minutes from time. Zaragoza finished the game with ten men after Pavon was sent off.

Atletico Madrid stay in fifth place after a 0-1 win at bottom club Levante. Diego Forlan scored on 27 minutes after being set up by Kun Agüero. A minute later Riga nearly equalized when he hit the bar. Atletico should have killed the game off and had to suffer a nervous last few minutes but Levante couldn’t find the equalizer.

Valladolid looked like winning away when they went 0-2 up at Osasuna through goals from Alvaro Rubio and Sesma, but two goals from Portuguese star Dady pulled it back to 2-2. Osasuna were reduced to ten men with ten minutes to go when Corrales received his second yellow card for protesting, but it was Osasuna who could have won it in injury time but Dady went for glory when he should have crossed to the far post.

Getafe could not repeat their Uefa Cup triumph and lost 2-0 at Racing Santander, Oscar Serrano and Jorge Lopez scoring the goals. Murcia overcame Recreativo 1-0 with a goal from Regueiro. And finally, Athletic Bilbao and Betis drew 0-0 at San Mames.

Top six: Real Madrid 22 pts, Barcelona 20, Villarreal 18, Valencia 18, Atletico Madrid 17, Espanyol 17.

Top scorers: Messi (Barcelona) 7 goals, Agüero (At. Madrid) 5, Rossi (Villarreal) 5, Kanoute (Sevilla) 5, Oliviera (Zaragoza) 5, Güiza (Mallorca) 5, Arango (Mallorca) 5.

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