Barca overpower Celta, Espanyol draw
30 October 2013, 09:51
Barcelona - Barcelona moved four points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga as they eased to a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo.
Alexis Sanchez continued his fine scoring form after netting the decisive goal in Barça's 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the weekend when he tapped home the opener after just nine minutes.
Celta had their chances to equalise towards the end of the first period, but went two behind at the beginning of the second when Cesc Fabregas' drive rebounded into his own net off goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez and Fabregas added a third with a clinical finish soon after.
With Barça in the midst of seven games in 22 days, coach Gerardo Martino made five changes from the side that started the match against Madrid on Saturday.
Javier Mascherano, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar all dropped to the bench, while Gerard Pique was left out of the squad due to an ongoing hamstring problem.
Carles Puyol, Marc Bartra, Alex Song, Pedro and Sanchez returned to the starting line up and it was the Chilean who notched his sixth goal of the season after just nine minutes.
Fabregas was played through on goal by Pedro and after his shot had been beaten away by Yoel, Sanchez had the simple task of tapping home the rebound.
The visitors then had a few more decent openings on the break with Lionel Messi's shot across goal that flew just wide their best attempt.
But Celta improved mightily as the half wore on and Barça were again indebted to goalkeeper Victor Valdes for keeping them in front at the break.
On-loan midfielder Rafinha Alcantara was inches away from equalising against his parent club on 28 minutes with a driven effort that flew just wide.
Valdes was then forced to block another fiercely struck effort from Rafinha barely a minute later and Celta were right to complain when they then had a goal ruled out for a very soft foul on the 'keeper after he flapped at a cross from the right.
However, Barça put the result beyond any doubt just three minutes after the restart when Fabregas' wonderful effort from 25 yards struck the bar and rebounded into the net off the unfortunate Yoel in the Celta goal.
Six minutes later it was 3-0 as Messi again fed Fabregas and this time he made sure it was his name on the scoresheet as he drilled the ball low past Yoel at his near post.
Yoel then denied Messi his first league goal since September with a smart low stop at the end of a wonderful team move also involving Dani Alves and Fabregas.
The Celta keeper denied Messi once more with 12 minutes remaining and the Argentinian then infuriated Pedro by going himself and forcing Yoel into another fine save when the winger was completely unmarked in the middle of the box.
However, Barça's profligacy mattered little as they saw the game out easily by registering their ninth clean sheet in 16 games in all competitions this season.
Espanyol and Malaga draw
Decisive interventions from goalkeepers Willy Caballero and Kiko Casilla meant an action-packed game between Espanyol and Malaga ended goalless.
Casilla made three vital saves as visitors Malaga marginally enjoyed the better of the chances - but Argentinian stopper Caballero prevented the hosts from nicking it at the end, making himself big to deny Sergio Garcia.
Neither side have been renowned for their attacking fervour this season and both went into the game after humiliating defeats, with Espanyol beaten 3-0 at Levante and Malaga thrashed 5-0 at home by Celta Vigo.
The first clear opportunity did not arrive until seven minutes were remaining in the first half, but in the space of 30 seconds, either team could have scored.
The result means Malaga move two points clear of the relegation zone - but they could find themselves in the bottom three by the end of the week, depending on results elsewhere.
Javier Aguirre's side, meanwhile, stay eighth, failing to grab their opportunity to climb up into the Uefa Europa League places.
- Sapa - AFP