It is Barcelona’s first win over Real Madrid since November 2005
Bologna rides on a Marco Di Vaio hat-trick
to whip Torino 5-2
MADRID: Late goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi helped Barcelona defeat Real Madrid 2-0 in ‘El Clasico’ at a rain-soaked Camp Nou on Saturday to move 12 points clear of its rivals in the title race of the Spanish league football.
Meanwhile in the Italian Serie ‘A,’ Napoli moved to the joint second spot following a 3-0 home romp against Lecce to go level on points with Juventus and AC Milan.
In Spain, former Real old boy Eto’o had seen Iker Casillas save his penalty in 70th minute, but picked himself up to break the deadlock seven minutes from time and Messi produced a delicate chip in stoppage time to spark wild celebrations.
It was Barca’s first win over Real since November 2005 and was sweet revenge for last season when Real did a league double and Barca had to perform the guard of honour to salute Real as champion at the Santiago Bernabeu before losing 4-1.
For new Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos, who took over from Bernd Schuster four days ago, it was a bitter pill to swallow and the former Tottenham Hotspur manager has a mammoth task to help Real win a third consecutive title.
It is a complete turnaround from last season when Real opened up a seven-point cushion with a 1-0 victory at Camp Nou before strolling to the title.
Real was snapping at Barca early on but the host was on the front foot and Messi turned Ramos inside out and his right-footed shot forced a save from Casillas.
Messi was coming in for some rough treatment and compatriot Fernando Gago trampled on his troublesome ankle to enrage the player and Guardiola.
Although Barcelona controlled proceedings, it was Real which had the best chance of the first half through Drenthe on 25 minutes. Dani Alves sold his goalkeeper short with a prodded back-pass, but Drenthe lacked composure and Victor Valdes guessed correctly to save his side.
Sneijder was forced off injured after 35 minutes and the 20-year-old Miguel Palanca came on for an unforgettable debut. On 70 minut es, Barca thought it had its breakthrough when Michel Salgado blocked Sergi Busquets and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Casillas went the right way to save Eto’o’s spot-kick and denied him again a minute later with a fantastic save.
Eto’o sucked up the blow and showed a real predator instinct to get a slight touch to prod the ball in after Carles Puyol kept a corner alive. Messi then rubbed salt in the wound with a 91st minute chip.
Valencia got its title bid back on track coming from behind to defeat 10-man Espanyol 2-1 at home and moved to second in the table, eight points behind Barcelona.
In Italy, Napoli, whose only two Scudettos came in the halcyon days of Diego Maradona in 1987 and 1990, bolstered its dream of having a say in this season’s title race with an early Marek Hamsik penalty befoke Slovakian midfielder Michele Pazienza made it 2-0 shortly before the break.
Argentine striker German Denis bagged the third midway through the second half to wrap up the points and take Napoli onto 30 from 16 games — four ahead of Fiorentina. In Saturday’s other game, Bologna thanked a Marco Di Vaio hat-trick as it whipped Torino 5-2 to end a run of five draws.
Spanish league: Valencia 2 (Albiol 58, Vicente 81) bt Espanyol 1 (Roman Martinez 28); Barcelona 2 (Eto’o 83, Messi 91) bt Real Madrid 0.
Italian Serie ‘A’: Napoli 3 (Hamsik 11-pen, Pazienza 42, Denis 65) bt Lecce 0; Bologna 5 (Volpi 48, Di Vaio 55, 62, 79-pen, Bernacci 68-pen) bt Torino 2 (Barone 7, Abate 53). — Agencies