By Andy Hall
FC Barcelona opened up an eleven-point lead at the top of the Primera División on Saturday night after beating Athletic Club Bilbao 2-0 at Camp Nou with Deco and Ludovic Giuly both finding the target.
The Catalan club managed to put Tuesday's exit from the UEFA Champions League firmly behind them during the match, although they were forced to soak up some early pressure from the visitors. Leading goal scorer Samuel Eto'o missed a perfect chance to put Barça in front on 15 minutes with goalkeeper Dani Aranzubia stranded.
Barça's persistence paid off five minutes later when Rafael Márquez put Deco through to shoot past Aranzubia - the ball taking a deflection off Luis Prieto before flying inside the near post. The home side went 2-0 up just before half-time when Ronaldinho found Giuly free on the right. The Frenchman cut inside to fire hard and low past Aranzubia.
Athletic coach brought on young marksman Fernando Llorrente to provide extra firepower but it was Joseba Etxeberria who almost scored on the hour - Víctor Valdés coming out on top in the one-on-one as the home side held on to win 2-0. Barça's main rivals for the title, Real Madrid CF, make their first appearance at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez on Sunday against city neighbours Getafe CF.
In Saturday's other match, Real Betis Balompié climbed to third after defeating Málaga CF 2-1. Betis got off to an excellent start with two goals in the first 17 minutes. Marcos Assunçao’s free-kick was cleared, but immediately knocked back into the area for Juanito to fire in after four minutes. Thirteen minutes later Edu sidefooted in a second for the visitors. Fernando Baiano reduced the deficit for Málaga soon after, but Betis held on.
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