Barca smash six past Gijon
A packed La Liga schedule sees Real Madrid and Barcelona get much-needed wins.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2008 21:36 GMT

Eto'o celebrates with fellow-scorer Xavi [AFP]

Barcelona thumped six goals past Sporting Gijon with Lionel Messi bagging a late brace to kick-start the Catalans' season.

Champions Real Madrid also looked in better health as they saw off a well-organised Racing Santander 2-0 away in the Primera Liga.

Barca battering

Barcelona earned their first league win of the season with a 6-1 rout away to promoted Sporting Gijon.

The pressure had been on new coach Pep Guardiola after his side only managed one goal and a point from their opening two games.

A brace from Lionel Messi and one apiece from Xavi, Samuel Eto'o, Jorge into his own net, and Andres Iniesta showed the side are starting to gel.

The win moved Barca into ninth with four points from three games, three behind early pacesetters Valencia, Almeria, Villarreal and Espanyol.

Barca started at a hectic pace against Sporting showing the kind of bite that had been missing from their play the last two seasons.

Iniesta crossed for Xavi to net first with a diving header and Cameroon's Eto'o headed in at a corner in the 33rd.

At another corner after the break home defender Jorge headed past his own keeper.

Sporting scored almost immediately through Francisco Maldonado, but lost defender Gerard Autet to a red card soon after, and were chasing shadows for the rest of the game.

Barca crafted wonderful goals for Iniesta and two for Messi in the closing stages.

Red and Ruud for Real

Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates with fellow marksman Ruben de la Red [AFP]
Ruben de la Red and Ruud van Nistelrooy finished off swift counter-attacks in the second half to sink a Racing side who had threatened to suffocate them in the first period.

The win moves Bernd Schuster's side up to sixth in the standings with six points from three games, one behind leaders Valencia.

Earlier on Sunday, a late goal from Juan Mata gave Valencia a 1-0 home win over 10-man Osasuna that put them top.

The in-form 20-year-old volleyed home David Villa's deep cross just as it seemed the visitors might survive the sending off of Cesar Azpilicueta earlier in the second half.

Real lost their most effective passer of the ball Guti to an injury just before the break at the Sardinero, which did not bode well for their chances in a game with very little space.

But the visitors broke away to score in the 54th minute when Argentine Gonzalo Higuain burst out of his own half to set up Spain midfielder De la Red for the opener.

Dutch striker Van Nistelrooy surprised Tono at his near post in the 74th in another swift attack, and Real's defence, who have been under the spotlight in recent games, held firm under constant late pressure.

Almeria on the up

Almeria beat promoted Malaga 1-0 at home to go second with seven points, ahead of Villarreal who came from behind to beat promoted Numancia 2-1 away with well-worked second-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Joseba Llorente.

Numancia, who lost 4-3 to Real at the Bernabeu last weekend, made life tough for the visitors though Gorka Brit's header just before the break was scored from an offside position at a free kick.

Almeria were always in charge against their south-coast rivals but had to wait until 16 minutes from time for striker Alvaro Negredo to break the deadlock with a far-post header.

Promoted Malaga, who have yet to score this season, had Miguel Angel sent off near the end, just before Almeria's Jose Ortiz also saw red.

Sevilla drought for Betis

Real Betis had their fans on their feet in the Seville derby with a stirring performance at the Ruiz de Lopera, but the goalless draw means they have failed to beat their arch rivals Sevilla in the last five league meetings between the sides.

Athletic Bilbao were on course for their first win at home to Valladolid when striker Fernando Llorente rose at the back post to head the opener early in the second half.

Full back Andoni Iraola scored a twice-taken penalty near the end to wrap up a 2-0 win after a harsh handball call from the referee.

Deportivo la Coruna drew 0-0 at home to Mallorca, with Miguel Angel Moya keeping the islanders in the game with a string of saves as Depor dominated.

A niggly match saw Depor's Mexico striker Omar Bravo shown a straight red in the 59th minute and Mallorca's David Navarro collected a second yellow near the end.

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