MADRID, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Champions Barcelona continued their irresistible form this season with a 15th straight win in all competitions after a 2-1 victory over city rivals Espanyol in the Primera Liga on Saturday.
Barca went 2-0 up thanks to classy goals from Portugal midfielder Deco and leading striker Samuel Eto'o either side of halftime before Raul Tamudo pulled one back for the home side with a neat finish on the hour.
'It was a very tough game and that's why I'm particularly happy with the victory, it was a very imoprtant win,' said Barca coach Frank Rijkaard.
The victory left his side five points clear of Osasuna who will look to consolidate second place when they host Racing Santander on Sunday.
Deportivo Coruna moved up to third, six points behind the Navarrans, after a 2-1 win over accident-prone Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
An own goal from Bilbao defender Mari Lacruz and a howler by goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia gifted the improving Galicians their fourth away victory in a row.
The Catalan derby was a typically intense affair with Espanyol doing their best to suffocate Barca in midfield and stop them playing their customary passing game.
The tactics seemed to pay off as the visitors were restricted to a couple of half chances in the first half hour.
Brazilian right back Juliano Belletti was denied by a superb one-handed save from keeper Carlos Kameni and Lionel Messi hit the roof of the net with a dipping shot after surging through the Espanyol defence.
Kameni made another great save to turn a goal-bound free kick from Ronaldinho around the post just before the break but was unable to deal with a low drive from Deco after the resulting corner.
The Portuguese midfielder fired off a shot after checking past two players on the edge of the area and the ball skidded off the rain-soaked surface and squirmed underneath Kameni on its way into the net.
Barca struck again less than two minutes into the second half as Eto'o took his tally for the season to 18 goals when he toe-poked the ball past Kameni after steaming onto a slide-rule through pass from Ronaldinho.
Espanyol refused to fold, however, and were given fresh hope when Tamudo dinked a clever shot over Valdes into the net after Fredson clipped a first-time cross into the area on the hour.
Bilbao made a bright start in Saturday's earlier match but Deportivo snatched the lead when Lacruz bundled Juan Carlos Valeron's low cross-shot into the net as he tried to clear in the 26th minute.
The Basque side gained a deserved equaliser early in the second half when substitute Ismael Urzaiz scored a trademark bullet header after outjumping the Depor defence to meet a Joseba Etxeberria cross.
But all their hard work was undone when Aranzubia let an Angel Arizmendi shot roll through his legs after the striker got the slightest of touches to a Pedro Munitis free kick.
Defeat meant Javier Clemente's side remain dangerously close to the relegation zone in 17th position and only lead fellow strugglers Real Betis on goal difference.