Samuel Eto'o helped Barcelona stay top of the Primera Liga by scoring four first-half goals as the leaders crushed Valladolid 6-0 at the Nou Camp on Saturday night. The striker took his league tally for the season to 13 and matched Gonzalo Higuain's earlier heroics for Real Madrid when the Argentine striker scored all four goals as they came back with 10 men to beat promoted Malaga 4-3 at the Bernabeu.
Barca's eighth straight league win leaves them two points clear of Real in the standings. Eto'o raced through to beat two defenders and open the scoring for Barca in the 12th minute before doubling their lead on the half-hour with a volley after a wonderful flowing move. He picked up Lionel Messi's pass to round the keeper for the third in the 42nd and slotted home the fourth two minutes later after the Argentina forward's surging run was blocked and the ball broke free for the Cameroon forward.
Eidur Gudjohnsen and Thierry Henry completed the scoring in the final 20 minutes. While Barca's victory was a one-sided affair, Real's win owed more to their gritty fighting spirit as they narrowly avoided making it four games without a victory in all competitions. They had got off to a bad start when Malaga's Portuguese midfielder Eliseu dribbled off the wing past two defenders. When his pull-back was fired against the post he put away the rebound.
The home team responded quickly with Higuain netting after Francesc Arnau could only parry Marcelo's shot, but Nabil Baha put Malaga ahead again in the 18th minute. Higuain came to the rescue from the penalty spot after a handball was spotted in the Malaga box by the referee, but Real were reduced to 10 men when defender Sergio Ramos stepped on Eliseu's chest after a challenge. Duda was fouled in the area and Antonio Apono drilled home a penalty to restore Malaga's advantage in the 71st minute, but the lead only lasted a minute until Higuain beat Arnau from well outside the area.
Higuain completed a thrilling fightback with the winner 12 minutes from time for Real. * Reuters