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Barca attack picking up steam

Barcelona 5 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 24, 2008

La Liga: Van der Vaart hits treble in Real romp

MADRID, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Real Madrid new boy Rafael van der Vaart scored a hat-trick to help the champions thrash promoted Sporting Gijon 7-1 in the Primera Liga on Wednesday.

Sporting were subjected to a 6-1 beating at home to Barcelona on Sunday and were quickly on the back foot at the Bernabeu as Netherlands midfielder Van der Vaart completed his hat-trick in the 46th minute.

A brace from Raul and further goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Arjen Robben completed a miserable four days for the top-flight newcomers.

Real climbed to second in the standings with nine points from four games, one behind leaders Villarreal who beat Racing Santander 2-0 with goals from Joan Capdevila and Joseba Llorente.

Atletico Madrid are third, also with nine points after winning the city derby at Getafe 2-1 with an own goal from defender David Cortes eight minutes from time.

Sevilla's 2-0 home win against Espanyol left them fourth with eight points, one ahead of Barcelona after their 3-2 home win against Real Betis.

Sixth-placed Valencia visit Malaga on Thursday.

Van der Vaart, who joined Real in the close season for around 15 million euros ($22 million) from Hamburg SV, volleyed the opener in the 18th minute and scored his second with a delightful back heel soon after.

After Higuain had made it 3-0, the Dutchman put away his third and compatriot Robben rounded the keeper for the fifth.

Sporting's Kike Mateo prevented a total whitewash in the 53rd, but Raul bagged two more as Real coasted to the final whistle.

Earlier, Barca's Iceland striker Eidur Gudjohnsen came off the bench to hit a late winner as they suffered a scare in the second half against Betis.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o received Lionel Messi's pass, cut around a defender and lashed a fierce drive in off the bar for the opener after 17 minutes and the same partnership worked again for Barca's second goal six minutes later.

The Argentina winger crossed for Eto'o to tap in from close range, but Barca were knocked back after the break when Luciano Monzon drove a free kick through the wall for his side's first goal this season.

Jose Mari's clever lob levelled the match before the home side got back into gear.

Substitute Gudjohnsen went full stretch to hook the winner inside the far post and Barca could have had more as they peppered the visitor's goal at the end.

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