|First Division - Day 34|
Barcelona 2 - Albacete 0
Víctor Valdés; Belletti, Oleguer, Puyol, Van Bronckhorst;
Iniesta, Márquez (Motta 62'), Deco; Giuly, Eto'o (Messi 88'),
Team changes: Barcelona: Márquez for Xavi / Albacete: Gaspar, González for Buades, Redondo.
Barcelona kept up their push for the league title with a 2-0 win over struggling Albacete on Sunday evening, maintaining their six point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table. It was not as easy as expected though against a side fighting for first division survival, and despite creating numerous chances they were unable to beat an excellent Valbuena throughout the first half.
The keeper made vital saves from a Ronaldinho free kick and later on from efforts by Eto'o and Márquez, and another shot from Deco earlier in the half flew just wide of the post. And the visitors could even have taken the lead when Mark González burst through the defence only to see his shot beaten away by Valdés.
With Madrid having beaten Real Sociedad the night before to close up to three points Rijkaard's side desperately needed to win, and they kept up the pressure after the restart. Ronaldinho headed against the bar and Valbuena pushed out another strike from Iniesta, and Belletti fired a shot wide with colleagues better placed to score.
Finally though Barça got the goal they needed, Eto'o latching on to a loose ball outside the area to bend a shot round the keeper and in off the post. After that they slowed the pace down, keeping possession as much as they could but still trying for a second goal. Valbuena was still determined though, and he kept out a Van Bronckhorst free kick and shepherded another effort from Giuly out for a goal kick.
Rijkaard brought on one of his young talents Messi near the end, more to run the clock down than anything else (much to the disgust of Eto'o, who wanted to stay on to try and increase his tally in the race for the Pichichi tile). However within a minute or so the 17 year-old picked up a lifted pass from Ronaldinho to beat the keeper with a clever lob, only to see it ruled out for the positional offside of a colleague.
Not to be deterred though, a minute later the two players produced a carbon copy, this time the goal being allowed to stand. It was the young Argentine's first goal in the league, and the 90,000 plus crowd (the second largest of the season) celebrated as if they had already won the title. There is still some way to go though; last season Valencia won the title with 77 points, Barça already have 78. But they still need six more to be sure of finishing ahead of their eternal rivals.