Euro Zone: Keita hat-trick fires Barça to thumping win

It was the night when Fabio Capello was meant to be watching Jermaine Pennant, but in the end it was more a case of Jermaine Pennant watching Barcelona. Zaragoza were spectators as Barça stormed back to the top of
La Liga with a 6-1 win.



Pennant showed some neat touches whenever Zaragoza were able to dispossess the champions, but for the most part the visitors were cones on Barça's training pitch – it was 3-0 by half-time, the home side had two goals ruled out, Zaragoza's goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo was their best player and Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unplayable.

Seydou Keita got the first after Messi crossed from the right. Ibrahimovic blasted a 25-yard free-kick into the roof of the net for the second. Keita scored his second and Barça's third from an Ibrahimovic cross and the Swede tapped in the fourth from a Keita cross. Messi should have made it five but Carrizo saved with his legs.

Zaragoza pulled one back through Jorge Lopez before Leo Messi's delicate lob made it 5-1 and Keita completed his hat-trick with the sixth.

The win sent Barça three points clear of Real Madrid but there are light years between the rivals in terms of the football the two sides are playing. Big-spending president Florentino Perez likes to call it a "super-production" but Real's blockbuster looks like a bad B-movie when compared to the current leaders.

"Just what are they playing at?" ran one headline after Real were held by Sporting Gijon in a 0-0 draw that, aside from one effort from Raul that was ruled out for a handball against Kaka (left), never looked like yielding more than one point for Madrid.

The draw came off the back of two defeats against Seville and Milan and all without Ronaldo, who scored seven goals in nine games before his ankle injury.

"We domintated the first half and we kept on looking for the goal in the second half but it never came," said coach Manuel Pellegrini. "We improved in so many other areas but we failed to do the most important thing which is put the ball in the back of the net." The criticism is perhaps as exaggerated as Real's summer spending and Iker Casillas appealed for calm after the setback.

The Madrid keeper said: "Great players have been brought to the club but we hardly knew each other two months ago. It takes time and we have to keep working. We have not been fortunate with injuries but the squad is big and we do not rely on just one player. Gijon defended well and they should take some credit from the game."

How Atletico Madrid would love to have Real's problems. They drew with Mallorca yesterday with new manager Quique Sanchez Flores watching from the stands having replaced the sacked Abel Resino.

Atletico failed to beat Mallorca despite being awarded two penalties and playing against nine men for much of the game. Diego Forlan missed one and scored one of the two penalties – both awarded for handballs – that saw first Josemi and Ramis sent off.

But despite being one-up and having a two-man advantage for the last 40 minutes, Atletico conceded in the last minute, with Borja Valero scoring the equaliser for Mallorca.

Muntari keeps Inter on top

Internazionale stayed top of Serie A with a 2-1 win over Catania. Wesley Sneijder was on the mark and Sulley Muntari scored his first goal of the season with a free-kick intended for Samuel Eto'o that bounced beyond the striker into the Catania goal.



Meanwhile, in another Galaxy

David Beckham was looking forward to the play-offs after playing an integral part in LA Galaxy's 2-0 victory over San Jose which confirmed his side as winners of the MLS Western Conference. The England man was given a standing ovation when he was substituted late on. "We wanted to finish on a high and we did that," Beckham said. "It pleased the fans to finish top but we don't stop here. There is still a lot of work to be done."



Tamudo heading for Wigan

The Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo could move to Wigan in January, according to Roberto Martinez. The Spanish striker is on the verge of having his contract, which runs out in the summer, terminated and the Wigan manager Martinez said: "Tamudo was in the list for possible signings in the summer but it didn't happen. I think he still has a couple of good years ahead of him."



Tamudo heading for Wigan

The Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo could move to Wigan in January, according to Roberto Martinez. The Spanish striker is on the verge of having his contract, which runs out in the summer, terminated and the Wigan manager Martinez said: "Tamudo was in the list for possible signings in the summer but it didn't happen. I think he still has a couple of good years ahead of him."



Del Bosque fears England

The Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has identified England as one of Spain's big four rivals to win the 2010 World Cup. The reigning European champions will start as favourites for next summer's tournament, but Del Bosque said: "From Europe I would pick out England and Italy, from South America, Brazil and from Africa the Ivory Coast – these are the four best sides in the world at the moment."



United in remembrance

As always happens on the 16th minute of a Seville home match Antonio Puerta's name echoed around the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. But on this occasion, the home tribute to the Spanish defender who wore the No 16 shirt and, at 22, died of a heart attack two years ago, was even more poignant. Espanyol, whose captain and No 21 Dani Jarque died in similar circumstances aged 26 at the start of the season, were the visitors. Their supporters joined in the applause for Puerta and then, on minute 21 Seville, fans rose to lead the minute's applause for Jarque.



Swine flu causes postponement

The Ligue 1 match between Marseilles and Paris St-Germain was postponed yesterday after several PSG players were diagnosed with H1N1 flu, the French Professional League (LFP) said. The decision was taken "on the formal recommendation of the [national] commission of medical experts", the LFP said in a statement on its website. According to the French media, three players – Ludovic Giuly, Mamadou Sakho and Jérémy Clément – have been tested in the last 48 hours for the swine flu virus after complaining of high fever, coughing and sore throats.

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