Barcelona ex­tend lead to 9 points

Fiji Sun - - Sports - Leonec@fi­

Madrid: Barcelona ex­tended their lead at the top of La Liga to nine points over Atletico Madrid de­spite blow­ing a two-goal ad­van­tage to draw 2-2 at Vil­lar­real yes­ter­day. Real Madrid closed to within 10 points of Barca in third ahead of the meet­ing be­tween the two sides in two weeks, as Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Ben­zema all scored in a 4-0 win over Sevilla. Mean­while, Va­len­cia boss Gary Neville was called a “don­key” and urged “to go now” by the club’s fans af­ter los­ing 2-0 at home to Celta Vigo.

Ivan Rakitic and a con­tro­ver­sial Ney­mar penalty had Barca on course for a 13th con­sec­u­tive La Liga win be­fore half-time. Yet, Vil­lar­real were more than wor­thy of a point and got their re­ward af­ter the break through Cedric Bakambu and Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal.

“It is a pos­i­tive re­sult for us,” said Barca boss Luis En­rique.

“It is a pos­i­tive round of fix­tures for us. One less (to go) and one point closer to our ob­jec­tives.”

Vil­lar­real’s bright start took Barca by sur­prise at El Madri­gal as they hit the wood­work in­side the first minute when a Manu Trigueros ef­fort was turned to­wards his own goal by Arda Tu­ran.

Yet, the vis­i­tors still struck first with some for­tune as Lionel Messi’s free-kick ric­o­cheted off Luis Suarez and fell per­fectly into the path of Rakitic to ri­fle home.

Vil­lar­real were then fu­ri­ous when coach Marcelino was ex­pelled from the touch­line for his protests af­ter Ger­ard Pique es­caped a se­cond yel­low card for a clear hand­ball af­ter just 23 min­utes. And worse was to come for the hosts when ref­eree Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez pointed to the spot de­spite Ser­gio Asenjo clearly play­ing the ball as Ney­mar tried to round the goal­keeper. Ney­mar put Barca’s re­cent trou­bles from the spot be­hind him to dink home the penalty for his 27th goal of the sea­son. Pique was re­placed by Mathieu early in the se­cond pe­riod as En­rique looked to en­sure his best de­fender was not sus­pended for the game against Madrid just af­ter the in­ter­na­tional break -Sport24

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