Barca beat Zaragoza 2-0

Barcelona beat Real Zaragoza 2-0 to stay comfortably at the top of the Spanish league on Saturday, but their victory was overshadowed by the appalling racist abuse of Samuel Eto'o.
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Published on Feb 26, 2006 05:13 PM IST
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None | ByAgence France-Presse, Madrid

Barcelona beat Real Zaragoza 2-0 to stay comfortably at the top of the Spanish league on Saturday, but their victory was overshadowed by the appalling racist abuse of Samuel Eto'o.

The three-time African Player of the Year and Spanish first division's leading scorer had suffered throughout the game with Zaragoza supporters attacking him but after 76 minutes he decided that they had gone too far.

Eto'o started to leave the field, telling the referee why he was walking to the sidelines, and was only persuaded to carry on playing by his team mate Ronaldinho and Zaragoza's Ewerthon, both black Brazilians.

The incident was an alarming repetition of what happened 12 months ago when Barca visited Zaragoza.

On that occasion, Eto'o responded to the moronic monkey chants from the home crowd by celebrating a goal with a monkey-style imitation.

"If they want to treat me like a monkey then I'll dance like one," said Eto'o at the time.

Barcelona showed that they were not to be intimidated by scoring two late goals to avenge their 4-2 defeat at Zaragoza in the Spanish Cup last month.

Ronaldinho broke the deadlock with a penalty after 80 minutes, after an Edmilson shot had been pushed over the bar by Zaragoza midfielder and former Barca player Albert Celedes.

Celedes was also sent off for deliberately handling the ball.

Henrik Larsson then added Barcelona's second two minutes later to provide a well deserved victory.

The win gives Barcelona a nine point advantage over their nearest rivals Valencia, although the 2004 champions have a game in hand and play host to Getafe on Sunday.

By contrast, Zaragoza can expect a heft fine, at the very least, for the latest outbreak of racism, which continues to tarnish Spanish football.

Real Madrid lie one place and one point behind Valencia in third and travel to Real Mallorca on Sunday.

"We are going to have to keep our wits about us. This could be a difficult game and Mallorca are playing with vigour since they got a new trainer (two weks ago)," said Real coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro.

Jose Maria 'Guti' Gutierrez will be unable to celebrate his recall to the Spanish squad on Friday as he has a slight left thigh strain.

His place in the midfield is likely to be taken by club captain Raul Gonzalez, who returned to action last week after three months on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Fernando Torres' lightning double strike helped Atletico Madrid notch up their sixth consecutive victory as they romped to a 5-0 win over hapless bottom club Malaga earlier on Saturday.

"We hope to continue our winning streak at Real Madrid next Saturday," said Atletico coach Pepe Murcia.

"Teams get very nervous in the presence of Fernando Torres and he showed tonight why that is and what he is capable of," added Murcia.

The Spanish international striker opened the scoring after five minutes when he stabbed the ball home with a left foot effort from the edge of the six yard box.

Torres took just four minutes to find the net again, this time using his right foot to fire home from just inside the area after a cross from Mateja Kezman.

Maxi Rodriguez put Atletico 3-0 up six minutes before the break but Malaga were saved from further first half embarrassment when Inaki Goitia stopped a penalty from Kezman in injury time after the keeper had brought down Maxi Rodriguez.

Juan Valera had only been on the pitch less than a minute, coming on as a second half substitute for Martin Petrov, but found the net with a looping left foot shot from nearly 25 metres after 66 minutes.

More misery came Malaga's way 13 minutes from time when Duda was sent off for hitting Valera on the back of the head and the Atletico midfielder made Malaga pay by getting his second goal of the game right on the whistle.

The win was Atletico's biggest since they returned to the Spanish first division in 2002.

By contrast, Malaga have now won only once in their last 14 games and are looking prime candidates for relegation after six years in the top flight of Spanish football.

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