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By ESPN Staff

La Liga: Eto'o inspired Barca crush Valencia

MADRID, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Samuel Eto'o led Barcelona to only their second away win of the season in a 3-0 victory over Valencia in the Primera Liga on Saturday.

The home side had no answer to the Cameroon striker's pace and power as he netted twice in the first half, proving he has fully recovered from the surgery that kept him sidelined for the first three months of the season.

Eidur Gudjohnsen added the third in the second period.

For Valencia coach Ronald Koeman it was his side's sixth game in all competitions without a goal.

'It's clear Samuel was very important for us today. We have to congratulate him as he has performed to a very high standard,' Barca coach Frank Rijkaard said.

Second-placed Barca moved on to 34 points, one behind leaders Real Madrid who host Osasuna at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

Earlier, Espanyol climbed to fourth with an uninspiring 1-0 home victory over bottom club Levante.

Defender Daniel Jarque stabbed the ball home from close range after nine minutes as last season's UEFA Cup finalists stretched their unbeaten run to 12 matches.

Espanyol joined third-placed Atletico Madrid on 30 points. Atletico visit Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.

Rijkaard left Ronaldinho on the bench and he was able to watch his team mates tear into Valencia from the opening minute.

They were rewarded with the early breakthrough when Eto'o received Lionel Messi's pass in the 13th minute.

He skipped past two defenders in the area and rifled a left-foot shot inside the far post for his first league goal of the season.

The visitors continued to dominate and a swift passing move involving Xavi and Messi in the 27th saw the ball fall to Eto'o again, and he left Santiago Canizares motionless with a quick right-foot shot.

Just before the break Messi limped off with a torn left thigh muscle that threatens his participation in the top-of-the-table clash against arch-rivals Real next weekend.

Valencia, who were without injured striker David Villa, had already lost top scorer Fernando Morientes to injury by then.

Barca substitute Giovani dos Santos crossed for Iceland striker Gudjohnsen to stroke home the third in the 62nd minute and it was only poor finishing and the saves of Canizares that prevented the visitors adding to the score.