Henry and Barça ride luck to close title gap

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry will touch down in Glasgow for Wednesday's Champions League tie against Celtic as Barcelona's joint top scorer having helped his side move to within five points of stumbling Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Saturday.

He will probably be focusing on that rather than the fact that he barely had another kick after his goal, and that Barcelona were fortunate to take the three points at Real Zaragoza after being gifted a penalty for a non-existent hand-ball 10 minutes from time.

Barça remain in poor form but Real Madrid were so sloppy in their defeat to Real Betis on Saturday that their unhappy coach, Bernd Schuster, did not even bother to go to the dressing room after the game to speak to his players.

Henry kick-started Barça's win with his 12th goal in all competitions. He had complained of being played too wide so when coach Frank Rijkaard returned him to centre-forward territory he had a point to prove and he did just that, controlling a Deco pass on the edge of the six-yard box and coolly shooting past the Zaragoza keeper Cesar Sanchez.

It was his seventh goal in the League – that is only half as many as Zaragoza front-man Diego Milito, and the Argentine should have scored his 15th to equalise just before half-time but blasted his penalty over after Rafa Marquez had brought down Ricardo Oliveira.

It was Oliveira who finally levelled on 52 minutes, exposing Marquez's lack of pace again. And with the home side rampant they were favourites to claim victory.

But inexplicably, referee Bernardino Gonzalez Vazquez did what Ronaldinho had been brought on to do minutes before and conjured something out of nothing for Barcelona.

He blew for a penalty after Juanfran controlled a high ball with his chest and Ronaldinho, who had just given Henry his second decent pass of that match, rammed home the penalty.

"You can never give a penalty for something like that," the Zaragoza coach Javier Irureta raged. "The ball fell out of the sky, there was no danger, it was a completely unjust decision."

Rijkaard was perhaps as surprised as anyone that his team found themselves back in the title race. Leaving Andres Iniesta and Yaya Touré on the bench and Samuel Eto'o out of the squad completely smacked of being far more concerned with the Champions League than the seemingly futile pursuit of Real Madrid.

But the champions lost their second away match running and are beginning to show signs of weakness on the road. Having taken the lead on the quarter-hour through Royston Drenthe from an Arjen Robben cross they promptly collapsed.

Guti lost possession on the halfway line and while he busied himself protesting at not being awarded a foul Betis swept forward and from Hugo Pavone's cross Edu levelled.

Then Edu turned provider for the former Liverpool player Mark Gonzalez to get the Betis winner. "What went wrong?" Schuster was asked after the game. "I don't know" he replied, "maybe you should be asking the players."

An improving Seville side moved up to sixth with an entertaining 4-2 victory over 10-man Espanyol at Montjuic.

The Brazil striker Luis Fabiano took his tally for the season to 17 when he hit Seville's opening goal while the African Footballer of the Year Frédéric Kanouté added the second. The Denmark midfielder Christian Poulsen and winger Diego Capel were also on target for the visitors.

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