MADRID, March 16 – Forgotten striker Bojan Krkic scored his first league goals of the season as Barcelona restored their six-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish first division with a 2-0 win at Almeria on Sunday.
Coach Pep Guardiola chose to rest Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry giving Bojan a rare start and the 18-year-old seized his opportunity, scoring a second-half brace inside three minutes.
Even an inspirational game from Almeria’s Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Alves could not keep Barcelona and Bojan at bay as they continue their treble bid.
"He (Bojan) deserved to play as he was doing really well in training," said Guardiola. "I am delighted for him and we will need him as April is a terrible month for us in terms of games. Everyone will play their part.
"We would like to have a bigger lead than six points but we can’t do anything about that. We have had so many games recently that is has been difficult to train at times but we just have to keep on going."
Real had thrashed Bilbao 5-2 on Saturday to temporarily cut the gap to three points and the pressure was on Barca to respond.
The Catalan side had crushed Almeria 5-0 at Camp Nou earlier in the season so the hosts wanted to give a better account of themselves while Mexican coach Hugo Sanchez, a former Real Madrid legend, wanted to do his old club a big favour.
Eto’o scored a hat-trick in the Almeria thrashing but started on the bench as Guardiola decided some of his stars needed a rest with the Champions League quarter-finals to come.
Seydou Keita, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were all thwarted by Alves in a goalless first half.
However, the breakthrough arrived in the 53rd minute with Bojan following up after Messi had hit the post with a curling shot.
It was Bojan’s first league goal of the campaign and the second came three minutes later when he completed a wonderful team goal involving Dani Alves, Messi and Andres Iniesta.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid came from two goals down to defeat 10-man Villarreal 3-2 at the Vicente Calderon to pull themselves back into the Champions League race.
Goals from Diego Forlan, who also missed a penalty, and Antonio Lopez in the final ten minutes secured a crucial win for Atletico who are now two points behind fourth-placed Villarreal.
"It was impossible to have any more chances than we had in this match," said Atletico coach Abel Resino.
"Diego Lopez (the Villarreal goalkeeper) was fantastic for them but I told the players to keep going and carry on playing like they were."
If Atletico had lost, Villarreal would have been eight points clear of their rivals and they took a 2-0 lead through Matias Fernandez and Ruben Cani.
Earlier in the season these two sides played out a 4-4 draw when Atletico trailed 3-1 and they came from behind again to get their Champions League exit to FC Porto out of their system.
Sevilla’s faint hopes of challenging Real for second place looked to have ended after a 2-2 draw with Malaga left them nine points behind the champions.
Luis Fabiano scored an 84th minute equaliser to snatch a point for Sevilla who were 2-0 down against their Andalucian neighbours.
Veteran striker Salva Ballesta, winner of the Pichichi top goal-scorers crown in 2000 with Racing Santander, scored a first half brace to put Malaga ahead before Freddy Kanoute pulled a goal back and Fabiano sealed the comeback.
"I still feel as if we were the ones who lost two points," explained Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez. "It was one of those days when nothing went in.
The pre-season target for Malaga was survival but they are in the hunt for a UEFA Cup spot, and possibly even a Champions League place, lying sixth two points behind Villarreal.