Barcelona are virtual Liga champs after thrashing Real Madrid

May 3rd, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Thierry Henry By Duncan Shaw
Madrid, May 3 (DPA) Barcelona are the virtual Spanish league champions after a memorable 6-2 win over second-place Real Madrid.

Barca turned in an astonishing performance Saturday after going an early goal behind and would have won by a greater margin had it not been for Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

The win will rank alongside the 1974 Johan Cruyff-inspired 5-0 win at Real, in the memory of the Barca fans.

Thierry Henry - in his best form in four years - and Lionel Messi each scored twice for brilliant Barca; defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique put away the other goals.

Barca now have 85 points from 34 games, seven points more than Real - with just four matches left.

This means that Josep Guardiola’s team need just five more points to be guaranteed the title.

It was the perfect way for Barca to warm up for Wednesday’s Champions League showdown at old enemies Chelsea, with viewers from more than 100 countries watching the most one-sided “Clasico” in years.

“All of the merit should go to the players,” Barca coach Josep Guardiola said. “It is they that have done this.”

Barca President Joan Laporta called it “a memorable night,” but denied that Barca were already champions. “We probably will still need to win two more games,” he said.

Real captain Raul was magnanimous in defeat.

“They were superior to us, and there is not much more to say,” he said. “We wanted to score early, but once they were in the lead it was really hard for us.”

Real needed to win to stand any realistic chance of retaining the Liga title, and they made the perfect start with Gonzalo Higuain heading in a Sergio Ramos centre to make it 1-0 after just 15 minutes.

Three minutes later, Henry equalized for Barca after being set up by Messi. In the 21st minute, Puyol headed in a perfect Xavi free- kick to make it 2-1 for the visitors.

Barca were in the driving seat and confirmed their superiority by making it 3-1 in the 36th minute. Man-of-the-match Xavi robbed Lassana Diarra and set up Messi to beat Casillas.

The over-worked Real keeper kept his troubled team in the match with several sharp saves.

In the 56th minute, Real defender Sergio Ramos headed in an Arjen Robben free-kick, but straight away Xavi set up the rampant Henry to make it 4-2. The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Real, and fans began to leave the Estadio Bernabeu.

But Barca were not finished. In the 76th minute the majestic Xavi set up Messi to make it 5-2, and seven minutes later Samuel Eto’o did the same for Pique.

Brilliant Barca were applauded off by the Real fans who stayed until the bitter end.

Later Saturday, Sevilla consolidated themselves in third place with an impressive 2-0 win at fifth-place Sevilla.

Sevilla won thanks to second-half goals from strikers Luis Fabiano and Frederic Kanoute, ending an alarming run of three straight defeats. They now have 60 points from 34 games, four more than fourth-placed Valencia, who play Sunday at Espanyol.

Villarreal stay fifth, one point behind Valencia.

Saturday’s other game saw Numancia move off the bottom by beating Malaga 2-0 at home.

Numancia move one point above new bottom team Recreativo Huelva but are still in big trouble, two points behind Sporting Gijon and three behind Getafe.

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