Barca cut the gap

Real Madrid's slump continues in La Liga.

    Samuel Eto'o: Sharp-shooter [AFP]
    Samuel Eto'o's hat trick helped FC Barcelona dispatch Levante 5-1 and move to within two points of league leader Real Madrid after it lost 1-0 to Getafe in a dramatic day in Spain’s La Liga.

    Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez also scored for Barcelona, which has 54 points in second place. Madrid has 56.

    Ikechuwku Uche stretched Madrid's losing streak to three games with his 64th-minute goal, scored after a quick Getafe breakout as Madrid's players celebrated what would be an overturned goal.

    Madrid's second straight league loss, and third in four games, has seen a nine-point advantage disappear.

    The Spanish champion also fell 2-1 at AS Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday.

    Xavi half-volleyed in a loose ball to give Barcelona the lead in the 14th minute, but Mustapha Riga equalized with a penalty in the 41st.

    Messi then beat Levante goalkeeper Vladan Kujovic at the near post three minutes later.

    Eto'o ran onto Messi's pass in the 56th before rounding Kujovic to score his first goal with his left foot.

    The Cameroon striker added another into an open goal six minutes later, and then knocked in a third off substitute Bojan Krkic's centering pass in the 87th for his eighth league goal.

    Yellow Submarine on the rise

    Earlier, Joan Capdevila scored in the 83rd minute to lead Villarreal over Athletic Bilbao 2-1 and strengthen its bid for a place in next season's Champions League.

    Guillermo Franco equalized in the 65th after Fernando Llorente had given Athletic a fourth-minute lead by poking in Markel Susaeta's cross.

    Villarreal is third in the league with 46 points. Atletico Madrid, which lost to Osasuna 3-1, has 41 points.

    Also on Sunday, it was: Deportivo La Coruna 2, Espanyol 0; Racing Santander 1, Almeria 0; Murcia 0, Valladolid 1; and Mallorca 1, Real Betis 1.

    Getafe celebrate much to the dismay of
    Real Madrid [AFP]
    Chaos at the Bernabeu

    Arjen Robben was mobbed by teammates after slotting in Raul Gonzalez's centering pass moments before Getafe's goal.

    But Raul was judged offside and Getafe took the ball quickly, breaking out on a 4-on-2 that finished with Uche sliding in Pablo Hernandez's pass beyond goalkeeper Iker Casillas, to the bewilderment of the Santiago Bernabeu faithful.

    "The referee should have stopped play with so many players off celebrating the goal,'' Madrid director sporting director Predrag Mijatovic said.

    Madrid had a perfect 11-0 league home record coming in.

    Raul got past goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri in the eighth but Getafe's defence recovered to keep the Madrid captain's shot away from the open goal.

    Robben was creating space down the flanks in attack and got a cross into the area in the 18th that Jose Maria "Guti'' Gutierrez headed just wide.

    In the 27th, Raul headed one of the Dutchman's crosses over goal.

    Pablo Hernandez's long-range free kick in the 43rd was Getafe's best first-half chance, with Casillas catching easily.

    Lacking injured regulars Robinho and Wesley Sneijder, Madrid patiently attacked with Abbondanzieri diving to keep Guti's free kick out in the 61st before diving the other way to stop Ruud van Nistelrooy moments before the unusual goal.

    With the momentum turned, Madrid struggled to collect itself to the final whistle.

    Barcelona's "Fantastic Four'' lineup failed to debut at the Camp Nou, with striker Thierry Henry watching from the stands.

    Ronaldinho started for the second straight game after the Brazil playmaker's impressive performance in a 3-2 Champions League win at Celtic.

    Xavi jumped on a loose ball for his fifth league goal after Andres Iniesta had tried to find Eto'o inside the area.

    Two minutes later, Ronaldinho was alone in front of goal to receive Eto'o's center pass but shot over.

    Levante's Juan Manuel Gomez beat Victor Valdes with a low roller in the 27th, but the ball bounced off the inside of the far post and along the line.

    Ginaluca Zambrotta's handball inside the area in the 40th allowed Levante to level before Messi exchanged passes with Xavi on the edge of the area to set up his ninth league goal and first since November 24.

    Enrique Sola, Carlos Vela and Hector Font took advantage of Atletico's poor defending to score in Osasuna's win.

    Diego Forlan scored in the 26th for Atletico from 15 meters (yards) outside the area.

    Mohammed Tchite's goal in the 61st gave seventh-place Racing 39 points.

    It was the first goal conceded by Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves in 677 minutes.

    Almeria finished with nine players.

    First-half goals from Fabricio Coloccini and Angel Lafita were enough for 18th-place Deportivo to defeat Espanyol.

    Both teams have 27 points.

    Valladolid's Joseba Llorente sidefooted in Jonathan Sesma's flick-on in the 42nd for his 12th goal of the season.

    Borja Varela gave Mallorca the lead in the 56th, but Edu Schmidt drew Betis even in the 70th with his sixth goal from a header.

    Betis is one of five teams with 29 points.

    On Saturday, Sevilla routed Zaragoza 5-0 and Recreativo Huelva drew 1-1 at Valencia.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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