Barcelona downs Madrid 3-0

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Ronaldinho scored twice Saturday to help FC Barcelona crush rival Real Madrid 3-0 and move atop the Spanish league for the first time this season.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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Ronaldinho scored twice Saturday to help FC Barcelona crush rival Real Madrid 3-0 and move atop the Spanish league for the first time this season. Striker Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring in the 15th minute before the Brazilian's solo efforts in the 59th and 78th sealed the defending champion's commanding display at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Unbeaten streak Barcelona's victory extended its unbeaten streak to nine league matches and handed Madrid its third defeat in its last five league games. "Ronaldinho did some marvelous things in the second half with his speed, control and technique. He was fantastic," said Frank Rijkaard, who became the first Barcelona coach to win twice at Madrid's stadium - having guided the Catalan team to a 2-1 victory two seasons ago. Ronaldinho's spectacular goals earned him applause from some Madrid supporters, while many others left the stadium before the final whistle. "It was lovely to receive the affection from some of the supporters of our biggest rival. It doesn't happen to you very often in your career," Ronaldinho was quoted as saying by news agency Efe. Barcelona's victory was its biggest at the Bernabeu since the 1984-85 season. "It was an open and spectacular game. Real Madrid did all they could to win but it was easier for us because we were in the lead. The team did great work in a difficult stadium and I'm proud," Rijkaard said. Eto'o strikes Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo said Barcelona deserved to win, saying that his team's problems began when Eto'o scored. 'I still think we can win the league. We kept calm and now we must move on. There's a long way to go in the league," Luxemburgo said. In other 12th-round matches Saturday, Osasuna was knocked out of league leadership with a 0-0 draw with Getafe, Villarreal drew 0-0 with Zaragoza, while Sevilla beat crosstown rival Real Betis 1-0. On Sunday, it's Cadiz vs. Valencia, Espanyol vs. Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao vs. Alaves, Malaga vs. Real Sociedad, Celta vs. Atletico Madrid, and Racing Santander vs. Deportivo La Coruna. Fans vandalise Police fired rubber bullets at a hundreds of fans who set cars alight and vandalised the area outside Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium an hour before kickoff, Spanish national radio reported. Barcelona, which has 25 points from 12 games, is ahead of Osasuna on goal difference. Madrid remained third with 21, one more than Villarreal, Sevilla and Celta. Eto'o received whistles from the crowd with his early touches on his first visit to the stadium since he chanted an offensive remark about Madrid, his former team, during the title celebrations in May. However, the Cameroon striker silenced Madrid fans with his 11th goal of the season by dispossessing Barcelona's teenage forward Lionel Messi on the edge of the area, moving two strides forward, and stabbing the ball home. Barcelona dominates Barcelona dominated so overwhelmingly in the first half that Madrid, which had Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane back from injury, was jeered off the field at the interval. Madrid lost captain Raul Gonzalez in the 57th minute, two minutes after the Spain striker had pulled up with a left knee injury. Club doctors said Raul had suffered a sprain and damaged the meniscus, and would undergo tests on Monday. He looks likely to miss Madrid's European Champions League game with Lyon on Wednesday. Ronaldinho doubled the lead after taking the ball up at midfield, streaking past Sergio Ramos and Ivan Helguera before firing home from inside the area. He scored again 19 minutes lter, taking possession on the left, outpacing Ramos and calmly sending the ball past goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Osasuna's draw at Getafe's Alfonso Perez Colosseum was its first of the season and extended its unbeaten run to four matches. Osasuna's Mexican coach Javier Aguirre was ejected in the 26th minute for protesting a yellow card issued to defender Enrique Corrales. Getafe's draw ended its run of three straight defeats and moved the team into seventh place with 18 points. Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca converted a 50th-minute penalty to give a nine-man Sevilla a win over its Andalusian capital rival Betis. Navarro ejected Sevilla defender Javi Navarro was ejected for kicking Betis striker Dani Martin in the 25th minute and Maresca followed in the 86th after receiving a second caution. Nine other yellow cards also were issued. Sevilla's victory kept it undefeated in seven games. Betis, which has a vital Champions League game at Liverpool on Wednesday, is winless in five and lies 17th with 10 points. Villarreal extended its unbeaten run to eight games against Zaragoza. The home team rested Argentina internationals Juan Pablo Sorin and Juan Roman Riquelme ahead of Tuesday's Champions League game at Manchester United. (AP)

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