Spanish leader FC Barcelona blanks Sevilla 4-0

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Samuel Eto'o scored his league-leading 16th goal of the season, and FC Barcelona crushed Sevilla 4-0.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:48 IST
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Samuel Eto'o scored his league-leading 16th goal of the season, and FC Barcelona crushed Sevilla 4-0 to stretch its lead to 10 points in the Spanish league. The Cameroon forward's 49th-minute tally began a second-half goal rush which included an own-goal by Sevilla forward Julio Baptista, and strikes by Ronaldinho and Ludovic Giuly. The match at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium was thought to be one of the toughest Barcelona would face this season. Barcelona shines But the game was transformed when Barcelona mounted a devastating display which boosted its chances of winning its first league title since 1999. Also, Spain striker Fernando Torres scored his eighth goal of the season to help Atletico Madrid to a 3-1 victory over lowly Albacete. Barcelona leads the league with 51 points, followed by Real Madrid with 41. Valencia is in third place with 36 points, one ahead of Sevilla. Today, Madrid can cut Barcelona's lead to seven points if it wins at last-place Numancia, while Valencia hosts Athletic Bilbao. Elsewhere, it's: Espanyol vs. Real Betis; Real Sociedad vs. Villarreal; Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruna; Mallorca vs. Getafe; Zaragoza vs. Malaga; and Racing Santander vs. Levante. Missed opportunities In Seville, a host of goal chances were produced in first 15 minutes with Ronaldinho and Eto'o coming close. Sevilla had a chance when winger Adriano Correia, one of eight Brazilians on the field, grazed the bar with a deft chip. Sevilla then had two penalty claims rejected. Striker Antonito Ramiro fell after an apparent push by midfielder Deco in the 35th minute, and Barcelona right back Juliano Belletti seemed to touch the ball with his outstretched arm three minutes later. Barcelona twice came close to scoring just before the interval when Ronaldinho's shot trickled wide in the 44th minute and the FIFA World Player of the Year then blazed over with a scissors kick. Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard brought on new signing Demetrio Albertini at halftime and the Italian veteran's arrival brought almost instant rewards. Moments after Sevilla had a third penalty appeal turned down, Eto'o raced on to meet Ronaldinho's through ball in the 49th, and after rounding goalkeeper Esteban Suarez, the league's leading scorer angled his shot out of the reach of two backtracking Sevilla defenders. Lead doubled Barcelona doubled its lead in the 57th minute through the unfortunate intervention of Baptista, who headed powerfully into his own net after Barcelona midfielder Rafael Marquez had nodded on Xavi Hernandez's cross. Two minutes later, Ronaldinho added the third goal when he sidefooted after Giuly's shot from an Eto'o cross. France winger Giuly crowned Barcelona's win when he fired a low shot from the right after a receiving Xavi's pass. Eto'o came close to scoring another in the 87th minute when he flashed a long shot which rattled Sevilla's crossbar. Atletico gets win Albacete forward Francisco Rodriguez's opening goal was one of the best of the season, but it mattered little against a determined Atletico, which gained its first win in five matches. The Albacete forward picked up the ball in his own penalty area in the 11th minute, charged forward and, having passed the center circle, delivered a curling shot over the head of goalkeeper Leo Franco, who was slightly out of his goal. Atletico took nine minutes to equalize when Torres converted a spot kick, awarded after right back Oscar Montiel was adjudged to have tripped midfielder Gonzalo Colsa. Argentine midfielder Ariel Ibagaza gave Atletico the lead in the 29th when he fired home from the right of the goal after Albacete had failed to clear a cross from the left by Jesper Gronkjaer. Atletico's third goal arrived on the stroke of the interval through a header by defender Pablo Ibanez, a former Albacete player, at the far post from Peter Luccin's floated free kick. (AP)

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