Barcelona have made amends for their indifferent start to the La Liga season with an emphatic 6-1 win over ten-man Sporting Gijon. Barcelona started the match in the unusual position of third from bottom after struggling to convert chances, but they let off steam by running riot in Gijon.
Two goals inside five minutes from Xavi and Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o put Barca in control, and an own goal made it 3-0. Andres Iniesta then capped a brilliant move with a delicate finish, and Argentine Lionel Messi scored twice in the final five minutes to push the Catalans up to ninth.
"We said that we were playing quite well and the goals would come eventually, and they have done tonight," said goalscorer Eto'o.
It was Pep Guardiola's first league victory since replacing Frank Rijkaard in the summer and Barca are now just three points behind the leaders. "It was three vital points and I am sure we will get better," explained Guardiola. "Scoring first really helped us, and apart from the result what really pleased me was how we retrieved the ball quickly and were very active when we had it."
Real Madrid moved to within a point of the leading quartet with a 2-0 triumph at Racing Santander. Midfielder Ruben de la Red, back at Real after a successful season's loan at Getafe, scored his first league goal for the club and Ruud van Nistelrooy produced a deadly finish as the champions rose to sixth in the table.
The clean sheet will also please coach Bernd Schuster who criticised his team for conceding five goals in their opening two league fixtures. "At the beginning of the season there are always problems that emerge that you need to work on," said Schuster. "."
Four teams share top spot in Spain, including title dark horses Villarreal and Valencia, who recorded victories over Numancia and Osasuna respectively.
Villarreal, who earned a creditable 0-0 Champions League draw at Manchester United on Wednesday, came from a goal down to defeat Numancia 2-1 with Jose Llorente scoring the winner with his first goal for the club. "It is no surprise that Barcelona lost here and it was a difficult game," said Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini. "Patience was the key."
Valencia lead the standings on goal difference, after a late Juan Mata goal downed ten-man Osasuna at the Mestalla. Mata struck seven minutes from time for the breakthrough after Osasuna had been reduced to ten men with Cesar Azpilicueta receiving his marching orders just after the hour for a second booking.
"Being top is not that significant as there are various teams with seven points," said Valencia coach Unai Emery. "The most important thing for us is that we are improving and collecting points from difficult games like this one. We knew it was a test of patience, because Osasuna are hard to open up."
Four teams are locked on seven points at the summit, with Almeria continuing their great start to the season with a 1-0 home victory over Malaga. Alvaro Negredo struck on 74 minutes with the decisive goal, and undefeated Almeria join Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia at the top.
Honours were shared in the hotly-contested derby match between Real Betis and Sevilla at the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, which ended 0-0. "We didn't lose, but perhaps we should have been more ambitious like we were in the final 25 minutes," said Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez.
Sevilla completed a league double over Betis last season, and the hosts employed a 4-5-1 formation to make life difficult for the visitors. It worked, as Sevilla, 2-0 winners over Salzburg in the UEFA Cup, failed to find a way through the bottleneck.
Elsewhere, Deportivo La Coruna failed to get their UEFA Cup nightmare - they lost 2-0 to Norwegians Brann - out of their system in a frustrating 0-0 draw with Real Mallorca.