Real Zaragoza were left to rue their misfortune after a missed penalty, a goalkeeping error and a red card in the first half gave Barcelona a helping hand to seal three points with a somewhat flattering 4-1 victory on Saturday. Carlos Aranda put Zaragoza ahead before Carles Puyol struck aided by an error from goalkeeper Roberto Jiménez, and Lionel Messi put the visitors ahead just before half-time. The Argentine added a penalty and an assist for Pedro in a far from impressive Barca display. Credit should go to Zaragoza though – they played with bravery and spirit which should only fuel their quest to avoid relegation.
Another two goals at Zaragoza extended Messi’s tally for the season to 60, just seven shy of Gerd Müller’s 67 goal haul in the 1972/73 season for Bayern Munich. Messi, with 38 league strikes and 14 in the Champions League so far this year, has plenty of time to reach the German’s total with potentially 11 games remaining and the 24-year-old looks almost certain to set a new European record. Should he do that, he could potentially be the only one able to break it in the future – though Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo will argue differently.
Madrid dropped two more points after a disappointing draw with Valencia which cut their lead at the top of La Liga and Barcelona are now within touching distance of their fiercest rivals. A stalemate at the Bernabéu on Sunday coupled with Barcelona’s victory means four points separates the two sides with seven games remaining. Should Barcelona win what is expected to be a heated El Clásico – moved to April 21st due to Champions League commitments – they will be breathing down Madrid’s necks and both will need to take maximum points from now until the end of the season to fulfil their title ambitions.
Levante’s 2-0 victory over fellow European hopefuls Atlético Madrid provided a boost to their claim for fourth spot but ended any chance of a fourth-place finish for their opponents. Valdo struck within the opening 60 seconds converting from José Barkero’s cross and Levante’s formidable Ivory Coast international Arouna Kone doubled the lead 10 minutes later, again from a Barkero delivery. It finished 2-0 despite the best efforts of Atletico in a heated encounter as 10 cautions were issued Atletico defender Miranda was shown a red for persistent. Having progressed to the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, Atletico missed the chance to leapfrog their league rivals, perhaps due to mounting fatigue within the squad.
Thumped 5-1 by Real Madrid last week, Osasuna looked to bounce back and reaffirm their European aspirations against an out-of-form Rayo Vallecano who were winless in three games. Yet Rayo took full advantage of their opponents’ lack of pace as their four pronged frontline ripped Osasuna apart in a 6-0 demolition. José María Movilla began the rout before the highly rated Michu scored two quick goals to highlight why he is being monitored by some of Europe’s big clubs. Diego Costa, who set up Michu’s second, curled in a beautiful strike just before the interval to make it 4-0. Osasuna made a triple substitution in an attempt to prevent more Vallecano attacks but they were in vain as Emiliano Armenteros and Tito completed the scoring for the hosts.
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