Villarreal capitalise on Barcelona meltdown to go second

March 30th, 2008 - 1:06 pm ICT by admin  

(Spanish Football Roundup)
Madrid, March 30 (DPA) Villarreal snatched second place in the Spanish Liga football with a 3-0 caning of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid - and have emerged as the main challengers to stuttering leaders Real Madrid. Earlier Saturday, Barcelona suffered an astonishing meltdown at lowly Betis, throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 2-3.

These results leave Villarreal with 61 points from 30 games, three points less than Real, who are at home Sunday to sixth-placed Sevilla. Villarreal are now one point ahead of brittle Barcelona. Atletico remain fourth with 50 points.

Villarreal are the Liga form team right now, with Real and Barca showing feet of clay. Little Turk Nihat Kahveci was Villareal’s hero against dull Atletico with two sharp goals.

Santi Cazorla shot the Yellow Submarines ahead in the 39th minute by turning in a Guiseppe Rossi centre from the left.

Four minutes later, Nihat made it 2-0 after Atletico defender Luis Perea had made a mess of another Rossi centre.

Nihat completed the rout in the 67th minute with a right-foot drive that went under hapless Atletico goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.

Earlier Saturday, the most astonishing game of the Spanish season saw Barca throwing away a two-goal lead in just 15 minutes.

With just 30 minutes left in Seville, Barca were sitting pretty, up 2-0 with early goals by Bojan Krkic and Samuel Eto’o.

Betis refused to give up, and their fight back started in the 63rd minute when Edu headed in a centre from fellow Brazilian Rafael Sobis.

Five minutes later, Betis were given a penalty for a pull by Eric Abidal on German winger David Odonkor, only for Edu’s spot-kick to be saved by Victor Valdes.

In the 76th minute, however, Spain defender Juanito Gutierrez made it 2-2 with a handsome volley, and Barca were against the ropes.

Just two minutes later, Edu brought the house down with a fierce near-post drive to take the lead.

Barca had conceded three goals in the space of 15 minutes and thrown away the chance to put massive pressure on Real.

Coach Frank Rijkaard said that it was “very difficult to explain” how his team had collapsed so dramatically.

The embattled Dutchman added that he “felt ashamed by the result” but discounted the possibility of resigning.

Barca will surely now complain about the match being played in Betis’ Estadio Ruiz de Lopera.

Last week, the Spanish federation imposed a two-match stadium ban on Betis because of the bottle that laid out Bilbao goalkeeper Armando a fortnight ago.

The Betis-Barca clash was going to be staged in Atletico Madrid’s Estadio Calderon, but the federation’s appeals court granted Betis an injunction on Friday evening - and so the match was played in Seville, to Barca’s chagrin.

Once again, Barca - who have won just four away games all season - made the trip without idol-turned-idle Ronaldinho, as well as injury victims Lionel Messi, Deco and Rafa Marquez.

The depressing defeat will put them in poor heart ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Schalke 04.

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