Eto'o double helps Barca close gap
The Catalan club's biggest win of the season gave Barca coach Frank Rijkaard the perfect opportunity to hit back at his critics.Updated: Jan 13, 2008 14:10 IST
Eidur Gudjohnsen, teenager Bojan Krkic and two late goals from Samuel Eto'o gave Barcelona an emphatic 4-0 win over Murcia which closed the gap on Spanish leaders Real Madrid to four points on Saturday.
The Catalan club's biggest win of the season gave Barca coach Frank Rijkaard the perfect opportunity to hit back at his critics among the club's fans and the local media.
Rijkaard has been under-fire since their 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Real on December 23, their only loss in the Nou Camp this season.
"I detected an atmosphere of doubt (among supporters and the media) but I never had any doubts. We've got to believe more in this team and what they are capable of," said the Dutch coach.
After a hesitant start, when Barca could easily have gone behind, Gudjohnsen settled their nerves after 27 minutes.
The Icelandic international opened the scoring with a well-taken goal from just inside the area following a pass from Gianluca Zambrotta.
Bojan, who is just 17, got Barca's second goal after 52 minutes.
"We had a chance at the start of the second half when Fernando Baiano could have scored. If that had happened the score would have been 1-1 and I think things would have different," said Murcia coach Lucas Alcaraz.
"As it was, after they got their second goal, they felt comfortable and were clearly superior. Nevertheless, for a team that was supposed to struggle this season, I've still got a good feeling."
Henry had dashed down the left wing, outsprinting the Murcia defenders, before providing an outstanding cross to leave Bojan the relatively easy task of slotting the ball home.
Bojan, Henry and Xavi Hernandez all has chances to get Barca's third but were denied by the agility of Murcia goalkeeper Antonio Notario.
However, the almost inevitable goal finally came from Eto'o 13 minutes from time when the Cameroon striker hammered the ball home after another inch-perfect Henry pass.
Zambrotta hit the post after 84 minutes but three minutes later Eto'o signed off for Barca before departing for African Nations Cup with his fourth league goal in as many games, connecting with a cross from substitute Giovanni.
Barcelona's victory confirmed that they stay in second place at the halfway point in the Spanish season, with 40 points from 19 games.
Real Madrid, the reigning champions, are in pole position with 44 points but a game in hand and play at bottom club Levante on Sunday.
"Titles are won in places like Levante," said Real coach Bernd Schuster whose preparations for the game have been disrupted by worries over the health of Spanish international goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Casillas, who is one of a handful of Spanish first division players who have played every minute of the season so far, has been struggling to overcome a bad bout of gastro-enteritis.
"He's got some stomach problems but I think he'll be OK to play," said Schuster, although former Liverpool hero Jerzy Dudek is waiting in the wings should Casillas be ruled out.
Fernando Gago is expected to start in the midfield in place of the absent Mohamadou Diarra, who is with the Mali squad ahead of the African Nations Cup which starts in Ghana on January 20.
Athletic Bilbao - who are one of only three clubs to have been ever-present in the Spanish first division along with Real Madrid and Barcelona - started the weekend just one place above the relegation zone but eased some of their worries with a 2-0 win over Sevilla.
Francisco Yeste opened the scoring after 28 minutes when found the net with his left foot, following a cross from the left by David Lopez.
Sevilla were then reduced to 10 men just seven minutes into the second half when Julien Escude was sent off after catching Aritz Aduriz in the face with his elbow while both men were jumping for the ball.
Athletic took advantage of the French defender's dismissal by going on the attack.
Nestor Susaeta added Athletic's second after 68 minutes.