Thierry Henry scored the winner as Barcelona came from behind to beat Villarreal 2-1 away and go 10 points clear at the top of the Primera Liga on Sunday. Cani had given Villarreal the lead just after the restart in a pulsating match at the Madrigal, bursting clear to chip Victor Valdes.
Barcelona’s Mali midfielder Seydou Keita levelled with a brave header soon after and France striker Henry volleyed the winner in the 67th minute from Xavi’s run and cross. Barca played the last 15 minutes with 10 men after defender Gerard Pique was shown a second yellow card but they hung on for the win and have now beaten all five of their closest challengers.
Pep Guardiola’s side have 41 points from 16 games which is the side’s best start to a league campaign, beating the previous record set under Frank Rijkaard in the 2004/5 season when they achieved 39 points at the same point. They also claimed the honorary title of ‘winter champions’ with three matches left to the mid-point of the season.
“The team have achieved a deserved victory and we have had the luck to be able to turn the game round. It is a big step forward,” Guardiola said.
He added the 10-point lead was a healthy advantage that had been “inconceivable” after they lost their opening game of the season at Numancia.
Sevilla were held to a 0-0 draw away to struggling Real Mallorca but climbed into second place on 31 points. Manolo Jimenez’s side, who were knocked out of the UEFA Cup during the week, put in a listless display and Luis Fabiano headed their best chance against the bar in the first half.
Atletico Madrid are third with 30 points, above Valencia on goal difference after their 3-2 win at Espanyol on Saturday, when Valencia lost 1-0 at Real Madrid. The champions are a point back in fifth ahead of Villarreal on goal difference, and two points in front of seventh-placed Deportivo Coruna, who sank Recreativo Huelva 4-1 at home. Lowly Numancia pulled off the comeback of the day against in-form Real Valladolid, scoring three times in the last 10 minutes to win 4-3 at home.
Bottom club Osasuna claimed their second win of the season with an 5-2 demolition of an out-of-sorts Getafe.