Barca hold off Getafe to extend lead at the top
Barcelona held off a spirited comeback by
newcomers Getafe to claim a nervous 2-1 win and cement their hold on the
leadership of the Primera Liga on Saturday.
The Catalans went 2-0 up at the break thanks to a fiercely struck free
kick from Mexican international Rafael Marquez and a superb strike from
Portugal midfielder Deco.
But they had to endure a nervous half hour after Gica Craioveanu pulled
a goal back for Getafe early in the second half before the pressure was
eased when the Romanian was sent off seven minutes from time for a foul
The win puts Frank Rijkaard's side nine points clear of fellow Catalans
Espanyol at the top of the table.
Espanyol's former Barca striker Dani scored a second-half double --
including one from the penalty spot -- to give them a 2-1 win over
Atletico Madrid that allowed Miguel Angel Lotina's side to continue
their impressive start to the season.
The result pushed Real Madrid down to third place but they can reclaim
second spot and narrow Barca's lead to seven points if they beat
visiting Levante on Sunday.
Athletic Bilbao eased concerns about their poor start to the season when
they cruised to a classy 3-0 win over Racing Santander, a result that
pushed them up to 12th place, four points clear of the relegation zone.
A delightful chip from Santi Ezquerro and a neat header from fellow
midfielder Carlos Gurpegi made it 2-0 at the break, while centre-forward
Ismael Urzaiz wrapped up the win in the second half with his eighth goal
of the season with a trademark header.
Barcelona were quick to gain control of possession against Getafe but
their well-drilled opponents gave them little time on the ball as they
hounded them down in midfield and crowded them out at the back.
SCORCHING FREE KICK
The visitors took the lead from a set piece in the 20th minute, Marquez
scoring with a scorching 25-metre free kick after Ronaldinho had
diverted attention with a decoy run across the face of the area.
Getafe were still dusting themselves down when Barca hit them again with
a superbly worked goal after a lightning counter-attack.
Ronaldinho set Xavi free down the left flank with a smart back-heeled
pass and the midfielder outpaced three defenders before cutting the ball
back to Deco who fired in on the half-volley from the edge of the area.
Getafe refused to wilt, however, and would have scored on the half-hour
had it not been for a sensational one-handed save from goalkeeper Victor
Valdes, who tipped a neatly placed header from striker Riki over the bar.
The modest Madrid-based side posed an even greater threat after the
break with substitutes Yordi and Gica Craioveanu bringing new spark to
Yordi headed into the side netting in the opening minutes of the second
half and the 36-year-old Romanian pulled a goal back when he let fly
with a powerful left-foot shot after pouncing on a miscued clearance
from Carles Puyol just before the hour.
Craioveanu almost grabbed another two minutes later but Valdes beat away
his shot and together Puyol and Marquez managed to block Yordi's
Getafe proceeded to lay siege to the Barca area and Valdes had to
produce another great save to scoop Yordi's goalbound effort off the
line a few minutes later.
But their comeback was cut short seven minutes from time when Craioveanu
was dismissed for some shirt pulling on Deco as he raced towards the