x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Barca have a splashing time

The Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola believes his side's quality shone through in difficult conditions against Malaga.

A skilful Barcelona side lorded over Malaga during a rainy affair to win 4-1 on Saturday.
A skilful Barcelona side lorded over Malaga during a rainy affair to win 4-1 on Saturday.

The Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola believes his side's quality shone through in difficult conditions against Malaga as the Catalan giants provisionally moved to the top of the standings. There was some doubt if the match at Malaga's La Rosaleda stadium would actually go ahead after heavy rain left the pitch waterlogged, but Barca adapted superbly to claim a 4-1 win.

That extended Barca's winning streak to 11 matches and saw them go to the top of the table for the first time this season, whilst also ending Malaga's run of four successive wins. "The state of the pitch affected the way the game was played a lot," Guardiola said. "The referee said it was fine to play and I was satisfied. "It was a game for not making mistakes rather than trying new things. For this I think the quality of the players made the difference. I think all my players interpreted the situation well."

Barca playmaker Lionel Messi, who scored his side's second goal in the 18th minute, added: "We knew that it would be a difficult game due to the state of the pitch. We won, which is important. "We weren't able to play our game. We had to play in a way which we're not used to, but things went well. "We fought how we needed to fight." Malaga coach Antonio Tapia said: "For me it was an interesting game, maybe not in terms of great team play, but between two teams battling for the victory.

"In this case our opponents were superior and you have to congratulate them. They're on a fantastic run of form." The match was not all positives for Barca though, with reports of racist chanting aimed at their striker Samuel Eto'o midway the second half at La Rosaleda. According to reports, the Cameroon international was subjected to monkey noises from a section of the crowd when he touched the ball.

Villarreal made up for their shock midweek thrashing in the Copa del Rey in emphatic style against the Primera Liga strugglers Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Giuseppe Rossi opened the scoring in the 24th minute but Joseba Etxeberria levelled matters for Bilbao just five minutes later as the hosts enjoyed their best 45 minutes of the season. However, it was a different story in the second half as Bilbao capitulated and two goals in six minutes from Robert Pires and Santi Cazorla saw Villarreal out of sight with less than an hour gone.

Substitute Josmer Altidore added another right at the death, seconds after coming off the bench. Bilbao were keen to record a victory as they came to the end of a testing run of fixtures which saw them pitted against four of the top five sides - Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal. They had lost all three of them before this game and were second from bottom in the Primera Liga. Villarreal were equally eager to get back on track after losing the first leg of their cup tie 5-0 to third division Ejido in midweek, and almost got off to the perfect start but Angel Lopez blasted his effort wide in the opening minute.

Gonzalo Rodriguez went even closer in the seventh minute but he headed inches wide from six yards. Bilbao were enjoying a good share of possession and had several opportunities to take the lead as first Fernando Llorente saw his header saved by Diego Lopez and then Mikel Balenziaga blazed over the bar from 30 yards. Joseba Etxeberria also tried his luck from distance with a fierce effort from over 35 yards out which Lopez did well to save.

They were left to rue those missed opportunities as Villarreal took the lead in the 24th minute when Rossi latched on to Angel's cross and fired it into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box. But their lead lasted just a few minutes before Etxeberria headed David Lopez's corner home from six yards. Meanwhile, a hat-trick from striker Mohamed Tchite inspired Racing Santander to a shock 4-2 win over Valencia at a rain-soaked Mestalla, ending the hosts' unbeaten start.

The Burundi-born forward put the visitors ahead three times only to see his first two efforts cancelled out by goals from David Villa and Joaquin, but the third proved decisive with a late own goal from David Albelda completing a miserable night for Unai Emery's men. Sergio Aguero enjoyed a return to the Atletico Madrid ranks with both goals in a 2-0 victory over Real Mallorca. * PA Sport