Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 3

Ronaldinho magic mesmerises Real
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The Independent Football

The wizardry of Ronaldinho propelled Barcelona to the top of the Primera Liga last night as the Catalans' greatest rivals, Real Madrid, suffered a humiliating defeat in the Bernabeu. Samuel Eto'o's first-half strike set up the victory, but it was the rampaging brilliance of Ronaldinho, who scored twice in the second half, which emphasised the gulf in class between the two sides.

Barcelona thus took over at the Spanish summit for the first time this season, replacing Osasuna, who had drawn 0-0 at Getafe earlier in the day. Their 14th league victory at Real made Frank Rijkaard the only Barça coach to have led the Catalans to two victories at the Bernabeu. Real remain in third place.

Barcelona were dominant in midfield, where the 18-year-old Argentinian prodigy Lionel Messi was the creative foil for the alert running of Xavi and Deco. In contrast, Real's engine room looked sluggish. Zinedine Zidane, who was returning after injury, was rarely able to conjure the kind of magic that once made him the most feared midfielder in the world, and David Beckham, first operating down the right flank and then moving to the centre of midfield, found himself similarly overshadowed.

Had it not been for Real's goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Barcelona's half-time advantage would have been greater than just one goal, which was scored by the former Real striker Eto'o after 15 minutes. Messi ran at the heart of the Real defence and Eto'o, picking up the ball on the edge of the penalty area, spun sweetly and toe-poked his shot past Casillas.

With the Real striker Ronaldo labouring after his return from injury and Raul being substituted after damaging a knee, Barcelona dominated possession in the second half as Ronaldinho's sublime ability to move inside and outside opponents mesmerised Madrid. On the hour he left Sergio Ramos sprawling with a quick shuffle, jinked past Ivan Helguera and drilled his shot inside Casillas's near post.

A clever shimmy by Robinho might have brought a consolation goal for Real, but Ronaldo missed his kick. Although Messi was replaced by Andres Iniesta after 69 minutes, Barça stayed in control. The Spanish champions completed the rout 14 minutes from time when Ronaldinho again ghosted past Ramos on the left and neatly slotted home a right-foot shot.

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