Saturday, September 30, 2006

Barcelona squad supports Eto'o in victory over Bilbao

It was good to see the team perform like this. New striker Eidur Gudjohnsen and Javier Saviola scored to help Barcelona beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao 3-1 and take a three-point lead in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Indeed, Gudjohnsen, replacing injured Samuel Eto'o, struck Barcelona's second goal from Xavi Hernandez's pinpoint pass in the 61st minute, while substitute Saviola added the third 16 minutes later to seal his team's win on coach Frank Rijkaard's 44th birthday.

The skillful Saviola hadn't scored a league goal for Barcelona since 2004 as he was on loan to Monaco and Sevilla for the last two seasons.

In fact, Bilbao took an early lead in the fifth-round game at its San Mames stadium through Fran Yeste but was then hit by the 19th-minute ejection of left back Javier Casas, and an own-goal by Ustaritz Aldekoaotalora just before the interval.

Barcelona, which is unbeaten this season, has 13 points, while Real Madrid and Valencia have 10 points. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have nine. Bilbao stayed 18th with just two draws from its opening five games.

We must remembert that Bilbao's new president Ana Urkijo — the first woman to take charge of the club — attended her first game in the role. Urkijo replaced Fernando Lamikiz, who resigned on Wednesday in the face of criticism of his running of the team.

Barcelona players took the field wearing green T-shirts bearing the message "Cheer up, Samu" in Catalan, dedicated to Eto'o. The Cameroon striker tore the meniscus in his right knee during Wednesday's Champions League game with Werder Bremen and is expected to be sidelined for five months.

Midfielder Yeste scored with a meaty volley in the 11th minute from a cross from the left by Fernando Llorente which took a deflection off Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez.

The visitor team equalized when Bilbao central defender Ustaritz, pressured by rival captain Carles Puyol, deflected Gudjohnsen's cross past his keeper Inaki Lafuente.

Finally, Gudjohnsen was replaced 10 minutes after his goal by Argentina's Saviola, who also furthered his claims for a first-team place in the absence of Eto'o by scoring. This three points are really important.

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