Ronaldinho leads Barca back to top of table

November 13, 2006

MADRID, Nov 13 (Reuters) - A magnificent Ronaldinho led Barcelona to a dramatic 3-1 comeback win over Real Zaragoza in the Nou Camp on Sunday which moved them back to the top of the Primera Liga.

After the European and Spanish champions had fallen behind to an early strike from Zaragoza's Gabriel Milito, the Brazilian playmaker headed Barca level in the 30th minute.

Then, with both sides reduced to 10 men, he curled a superb free-kick into the top corner with four minutes remaining, and in time added on struck another against the crossbar which Javier Saviola put in with his head.

Barcelona are top with 23 points, one ahead of Sevilla who were held to a goalless draw away to Racing Santander.

Four goals from Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy earned Real Madrid a convincing 4-1 away win over Osasuna that put them third on 20 points.

The former Manchester United frontman scored three before halftime and rounded off an impressive display with a fourth near the end.

He became the league's joint top scorer with eight goals along with Ronaldinho, Sevilla's Frederic Kanoute and Zaragoza's Diego Milito.

It was his second hat-trick of the season. The other was against Levante in a 4-1 away win in September.

'Two years ago I also scored four in a Champions League match against Sparta Prague but today was different because we only had four or five chances and every one went in,' said Van Nistelrooy.

Getafe are level on 19 points with Zaragoza but fifth on goal difference after midfielder Nacho pounced on an error from Real Mallorca goalkeeper Toni Prats to give Bernd Schuster's side a 1-0 win.

Valencia who drew 1-1 at home against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday are a point back in sixth place.

The traditionally hostile reception given to Real in Pamplona ensured a turbo-charged opening as Osasuna tried to impose themselves early on.

Cameroon striker Pierre Webo had just headed over the bar from a good position when Real struck in the 12th minute to take the wind out of the home side's sails.

Robinho's long-range effort was too powerful for goalkeeper Ricardo to hold and Van Nistelrooy, who scored two in the King's Cup during the week, was on hand to slot the loose ball into the net.

Real doubled the lead in the 27th minute when Guti and Robinho combined well on the edge of the area, but as a defender intervened the ball spun clear to Van Nistelrooy, who poached his second at the far post.

The game was effectively settled just before the break when Raul's pass put Van Nistelrooy through on goal and he scored left-footed inside Ricardo's near post.

Former Real player Valdo pulled a goal back for Osasuna with a header from a corner in the 64th minute as they resorted to increasingly physical methods to try and get back into the game.

But it was Van Nistelrooy who had the last word, collecting a pass from Emerson wide on the left, advancing and then curling a side-footed shot inside the far post from the edge of the area, six minutes from time.

Two attack-minded teams put on a pulsating display of open football in the Nou Camp as Zaragoza decided to take Barcelona on at their own game.

After being forced to soak up intense early pressure Victor Fernandez's side scored from a corner in the 16th minute when Argentine defender Gabriel Milito arrived unmarked to volley home from close range.

Barca's defence looked shaky but they drew level when Ronaldinho rose to head Deco's corner in at the far post.

The game erupted in controversy midway through the second half as Diego Milito's theatrics got Barca's Thiago Motta sent off in the 72nd minute, as he fell to the floor clutching his face after Motta's hand brushed his chest in a challenge.

After three minutes of heated protests from Barca the game resumed and immediately Saviola was pulled back by Gabriel Milito after he let the ball slip under his foot as the last man back. A red was shown and he followed Motta down the tunnel.

Ronaldinho proved the decisive figure at the end with two stunning freekicks to bring to an end a breathless match.

The only dark spot on the night for Barca was losing Brazilian Edmilson and Argentine forward Lionel Messi to injury in the first half.

Barca fear Messi may have broken a metatarsal in his foot which could put him out for up to three months.