By Andy Hall
FC Barcelona restored their ten-point Primera División lead over Real Madrid CF after playing some scintillating football in a 3-0 win against Real Racing Club Santander.
Barça almost fell behind in the third minute when Racing's Javi Guerrero could only turn a teasing cross from the right over the home crossbar. Five minutes later the visitors were made to pay for such profligacy as Samuel Eto'o latched on to a delicious pass from Xavi Hernández and beat Dudu Aouate with a fine low drive. It was the Cameroonian international's 15th league goal of the season.
Had Eto'o's team-mates been as clinical, the league leaders could have gone in at half-time with victory assured. However, Xavi, Ronaldinho, Ludovic Giuly and Rafael Márquez all failed to score from excellent positions. The second half started in similar fashion, with Barcelona dictating the pace, and creating the openings, from the off.
In the 49th minute, Juliano Belletti showed neat footwork to deceive the Racing left-back and deliver a cross which Eto'o brilliantly touched into the path of Xavi. The Spanish international beat the goalkeeper this time but saw his chip cleared off the line as the ball was about to cross it. Belletti then needed to be alert at the other end in the 64th minute as he got back to deny Mario Regueiro after the Racing forward had raced clear of the home defence.
However, a virtuoso Ronaldinho goal in the 75th minute lifted the tension and Deco made it 3-0 soon after with a finish from almost an identical position just outside the area, albeit with the aid of a deflection. Madrid play RCD Mallorca tomorrow.
At San Mamés, spectators were treated to a clutch of extraordinary goals as Athletic Club Bilbao overturned a three-goal deficit to defeat CA Osasuna 4-3. Pablo García, Pierre Webó and Patxi Puñal had seemingly put Osasuna into an unassailable position, only for the home side to stage a spectacular second-half rally.
Two goals in five minutes after the hour, including a sublime free-kick, from Francisco Yeste (later sent off) got Athletic going and Tiko coolly side-footed the leveller in the 83rd minute before home side found an unlikely hero in Julen Guerrero. The midfielder had previously played just 19 minutes all season but showed no sign of rustiness when volleying in Andoni Iraola's cross.
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