FC Barcelona returned to form in spectacular style with a 5-1 home win against Real Betis Balompié although traditional rivals Real Madrid CF continued their winning run to stay in contention at the top of the Primera División.
Frank Rijkaard's team had lost their last two league games and seen their lead at the top cut to seven points, but took the lead at the Camp Nou in the 16th minute. Ronaldinho's pass set Samuel Eto'o free down the right and the Cameroonian striker unselfishly squared across goal for Larsson top tap in. Thirteen minutes later it was 2-0, Betis defender Melli unwittingly turning Ronaldinho's clever pass past his own goalkeeper as he strove to reach the ball before Eto'o.
Antonio Doblas was again left helpess five minutes later as Ronaldinho's free-kick took two deflections, the luckless Melli again getting the final touch. The home team team added a fourth in the 59th minute as Doblas was unable to keep out another Ronaldinho free-kick. Joaquín Sánchez responded three minutes later, but Barça had the last word as substitute Lionel Messi beat Doblas for the fifth time.
At the Santiago Bernabéu Madrid recorded their sixth successive league win, seizing control of the match against Deportivo Alavés with two goals in the first eleven minutes. Captain Guti opened the scoring in the sixth minute, shooting in from Robinho's pass, and the same combination were responsible for Madrid's second goal five minutes later, Julio Baptista thumping an overhead kick against the crossbar from Guti's lofted pass only for Robinho to convert the rebound.
There was more good news for Madrid midway through the second half as talismanic captain Raúl González returned from three months on the sidelines with a knee injury to replace Baptista, but it was two other substitutes who combined for the third goal 13 minutes from time. Antonio Cassano found Cicinho inside the penalty area, and the Brazilian right-back cut inside before drilling in to complete a solid victory that took Madrid above Valencia CF and into second place.
Villarreal CF, meanwhile, prepared for their UEFA Champions League trip to Rangers FC on Wednesday night with a confidence-inspiring 4-0 win at home to RCD Espanyol, Alessio Tacchinardi, Marcos Senna and Diego Forlán all striking in the first half and Héctor Font adding a late fourth. Sevilla FC stayed fifth, Javier Saviola's tenth-minute strike defeating RC Celta de Vigo.
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