Samuel Eto'o and Gonzalo Higuain both scored four goals in an incredible Saturday night of football as Barcelona thrashed Valladolid 6-0 while Real Madrid laboured to a 4-3 triumph over Malaga.
Barca romped to their eighth successive Spanish league victory to stay two points clear of defending champions Real at the summit. With the help of the unstoppable Lionel Messi, Cameroon international Eto'o scored four times - in the 12th, 30th, 42nd and 44th minutes - in an unforgettable first half at Camp Nou before Eidur Gudjohnsen and Thierry Henry got on the scoresheet in the second period.
Eto'o seems to love the first 45 minutes having scored a 23-minute hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of Almeria at the end of October and his quadruple against Valladolid means he leads the goalscoring charts with 13 goals in 10 games.
"The victory was the most important thing not how many goals we score," said Eto'o. "We produced a great performance tonight and are doing well. It wasn't easy as Valladolid are a good team and brave opponents."
Asked on how he would celebrate his four-goal haul Eto'o replied: "I will celebrate at home."
The African came off 15 minutes from time to a standing ovation as the home fans did Mexican waves to celebrate a thrilling win that could have been in two figures had Henry taken a glut of chances. Barca are averaging more than three goals a game this season having scored 34 goals in their first 10 matches.
Higuain on song
Earlier Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain had fired Real to the summit with his own quadruple, including two penalties.
Real looked to be heading for an embarrassing home defeat to promoted Malaga after Sergio Ramos had been sent off for stamping close to half-time and Antonio Apono had fired Malaga into a 3-2 lead with a 70th-minute penalty. But the 20-year-old Higuain, out to impress new Argentina coach Diego Maradona, rescued Real scoring the equaliser straight from the kick off and then a dramatic penalty winner on 78 minutes after his initial spot-kick had been saved.
"He (Higuain) is clearly playing in his favoured position (centre-forward) where he can use his speed and dribbling ability," lauded Real coach Bernd Schuster. "I am delighted how things are going for him at the moment although I told him that he could change his penalty-taking style a little."
Higuain now has nine goals for the season and is set for a run in the team with Ruud van Nistelrooy sidelined with a knee injury.
Schuster showed his faith in Higuain, playing him ahead of captain Raul Gonzalez, who was dropped for the Malaga match after a poor display against Juventus.
Going behind three times will concern Schuster but the German preferred to focus on the spirit shown by his ten men. "Despite having a man less we still went in search of the win," added the former Getafe coach. "Of course I would prefer to win in a different way but this victory is a great morale boost for the team."
Asked on Ramos's red card for stamping Schuster replied: "The red card surprised me and I don't want to say anything else."
After losing 2-0 to Juventus in their midweek UEFA Champions League home match, the Santiago Bernabeu public wanted a convincing display from their team. They didn't quite get that but the three points will do for Real.
Schuster has been criticising referees throughout this season but Real certainly had their slice of fortune against poor Malaga with question marks over both of their penalties.
Scoring three times at Real's ground and having nothing to show for it was heartbreaking for Malaga, who attacked from the first whistle. "I am disappointed not to have won," said Malaga coach Antonio Tapia. "We produced a magnificent display from start to finish. We played good football, scored three goals and deserved to win."