MADRID, Spain — Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o and Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain each scored four goals to lead their teams to Spanish league victories on Saturday.
Eto’o helped leader Barcelona trounce Valladolid 6-0 and record its eighth straight league win, while Higuain’s quartet brought 10-man Real Madrid a 4-3 victory over Malaga.
The goals by Eto’o all arrived in the first half of the game at Camp Nou and took his tally to a league-leading 13 this season. Eidur Gudjohnsen and Thierry Henry added Barcelona’s other goals.
Madrid, which had defender Sergio Ramos sent off just before halftime, fell behind three times at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to goals by Eliseu Pereira, Nabil Baha and Antonio "Apono" Galdeano.
Higuain, who was replacing the injured Ruud van Nistelrooy, equalized three times in the eighth, 37th and 71st minutes before scoring the winning goal in the 78th to take his season tally to nine goals.
Barcelona has 25 points from 10 games. Defending champion Madrid, whose win was only its second in six games in all competitions, has 23. Villarreal follows with 21, one more than Valencia.
Villarreal hosts Almeria on Sunday, while Valencia visits Getafe.
Eto’o opened his account against Valladolid in the 12th minute when the Cameroon striker received right back Daniel Alves’ through ball, went past defender Jose Antonio Garcia Calvo and fired home.
Valladolid then pressured Barcelona, whose goalkeeper Victor Valdes was making his 200th league appearance for the club, until Eto’o doubled his tally on the half-hour after visiting goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo had parried Henry’s shot.
Eto’o completed his hat trick in the 42nd from Lionel Messi’s through pass and fired a fourth two minutes later after the ball had deflected off a visiting defender.
Gudjohnsen, replacing injured Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta, spooned the ball over Asenjo for Barcelona’s fifth goal in the 71st minute.
Eto’o received a rousing reception from supporters as he left the field in the 75th to be replaced by Alexander Hleb.
Hleb’s pass provided Henry with the chance to seal Barcelona’s emphatic win eight minutes later.
Madrid also lacked the injured Pepe and Arjen Robben, together with Ruben De La Red, who has not played since collapsing during a Copa del Rey game against Real Union on Oct. 30. In addition, coach Bernd Schuster left captain Raul Gonzalez on the bench.
Malaga, whose defeat last week against Barcelona ended a run of four straight wins, took the lead in the sixth minute.
Eliseu cut in from the corner flag and dribbled past defenders Marcelo and Gabriel Heinze before attempting a pass which hit Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago and rebounded off the post. Eliseu regained possession, swiveled and fired home from close range.
Higuain, Madrid’s top scorer this season, leveled two minutes later, seizing on the rebound after Marcelo’s shot had bounced off Malaga goalkeeper Francesc Arnau.
Baha restored the visitors’ lead 10 minutes later when he took advantage of a pinpoint low cross by midfielder Sergio (Duda) Barbosa by firing past Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Malaga defender Weligton then touched Higuain’s flicked pass with his left arm, allowing the Argentine to draw Madrid level again from the penalty spot.
Madrid suffered a new blow in the 44th minute with Ramos’ dismissal for treading on Eliseu’s chest as the Malaga midfielder lay on the ground.
Ramos’ first ejection of the season provoked protests from his teammates, who argued that the action was accidental. The Spain defender received three red cards during the last league campaign.
Schuster brought on right back Michel Salgado in place of midfielder Wesley Sneijder to cover for Ramos in the second half.
Malaga went ahead for the third time through Apono’s 70th-minute spot-kick, awarded after Gago pushed Duda as the visiting player entered the area. But Higuain responded again with a fierce low shot less than a minute later which completed his hat trick.
The match’s third penalty soon arrived when Malaga defender Javier Calleja was adjudged to have tripped Higuain as he raced to meet Rafael van der Vaart’s cross from the left.
Higuain’s shot was blocked by Arnau only for the forward to lash home the rebound.
The game was watched by Malaga president Fernando Sanz, a former Madrid player whose father, Lorenzo Sanz, was Madrid president from 1995-2000 and is now Malaga’s owner.
Also on Sunday, it’s: Mallorca vs. Athletic Bilbao; Osasuna vs. Atletico Madrid; Deportivo La Coruna vs. Espanyol; Numancia vs. Real Betis; Racing Santander vs. Sporting Gijon; and Sevilla vs. Recreativo Huelva.
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