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Barca blitz keeps heat on Madrid

China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-07 07:00

 Barca blitz keeps heat on Madrid

Leganes defender Diego Rico beats Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos to a header during their La Liga match at Butarque Stadium in Madrid on Wednesday. League leader Real won 4-2. [Photo/AP]

MADRID - With Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in top form, Barcelona took less than 10 minutes to dispatch Sevilla and keep the pressure on La Liga leader Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Suarez scored with a bicycle kick and Messi struck twice within the next eight minutes on his return to action as Barca eased to a 3-0 victory in its pursuit of a third straight league title.

Madrid, minus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and several other regulars, beat struggler Leganes 4-2 to maintain a two-point lead over the second-place Catalan club. Zinedine Zidane's side also has a game in hand over Barca.

Sevilla remains fourth, behind Atletico Madrid, but is 13 points off the pace and virtually out of title contention with eight games remaining.

Jorge Sampaoli's team is still reeling from its elimination by Leicester in the last 16 of the Champions League and hasn't won in five league matches.

It never had a chance against Barcelona under steady rain at Camp Nou.

"The first half was spectacular," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

"Sevilla never threatened us. In the end we lost some control of the match, but I'm very satisfied."

Suarez opened the scoring with his superb effort inside the six-yard box.

A Messi pass deflected off a defender and flew up in the air in front of the Uruguay striker, who flicked over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in the 25th minute.

"A striker always has an idea of where the goal is," Suarez said.

"I didn't have another alternative because the ball was in the air. I just went for it."

Former Liverpool star Suarez has seven goals from his last seven games. His 24-goal league tally this season is three less than the league's top scorer Messi, who got his first of the night in the 28th minute with an easy shot from inside the area after a combination of passes between Neymar and Suarez.

Messi added to the lead in the 33rd minute with a left-foot shot after Sevilla failed to fully clear a ball inside the box.

He celebrated by sliding two fingers under his right eye, as if painting his face like a warrior, a reference to a campaign supporting children fighting cancer. The campaign was being promoted by Barcelona and Messi's foundation.

Messi, who has scored 43 goals in 41 matches for Barca this season, was playing his first game in almost two weeks.

He missed the win at Granada last weekend through suspension, and began a four-game international suspension before Argentina's World Cup qualifying loss to Bolivia after insulting a linesman.

The 29-year-old's last game was on March 23, when he scored Argentina's winner over Chile.

Not long ago, Sevilla was in contention for the league title, but is now enduring its worst moment of the season.

It had a chance to take a first-half lead in Catalonia, but former Stoke City midfielder Steven N'Zonzi spurned a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

"We have to start believing again," Sampaoli said. "We have to start winning again."

Sevilla striker Victor Machin was sent off in stoppage time after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Neymar.

It was 32-year-old playmaker Andres Iniesta's 700th game for Barca, including friendlies, and the club's 800th league triumph at Camp Nou.

Associated Press

 

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