Messi scores in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Es­panyol

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Lionel Messi and Ney­mar kept front-run­ner Barcelona on pace to re­claim­ing the Span­ish league ti­tle af­ter scor­ing in a 2-0 win at Es­panyol to pro­vi­sion­ally in­crease its lead over Real Madrid on Satur­day.

Luis Suarez, the third mem­ber of the star-stud­ded attack, played a part in both goals against Barcelona’s cross-town ri­val.

Messi’s in­ci­sive pass started a move that Ney­mar fin­ished off in the 17th minute af­ter Suarez coolly let the ball run be­tween his legs.

Suarez then crossed for Messi to dou­ble the vis­i­tors’ ad­van­tage in the 25th with his 47th goal in 48 games this sea­son.

Barcelona leads the league by five points from sec­ond-place Madrid, which vis­its Celta Vigo on Sun­day.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who has also guided the team into a Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nal against Bay­ern Mu­nich and the Copa del Rey fi­nal, called his side’s first half “the best” of the sea­son.

“We are feel­ing good vi­bra­tions, but good vi­bra­tions don’t mean any­thing. Points and wins count,” Luis Enrique said. “We have five rounds left, and our at­ti­tude must re­main the same. I’m not wor­ried about my play­ers re­lax­ing.”

Barcelona lost left back Jordi Alba to back-to-back bookings in the 54th af­ter he con­tin­ued to protest, but the lead­ers didn’t miss a beat, and three min­utes later Messi hit the post.

Es­panyol also fin­ished with 10 men af­ter ref­eree Ma­teu La­hoz showed two yel­low cards just mo­ments apart to Hec­tor Moreno for com­plain­ing in stop­page time.

Else­where, Atletico Madrid for­ward An­toine Griez­mann recorded his third brace in as many league games as last sea­son’s cham­pi­ons brushed aside Elche 3-0 at home, strength­en­ing their hold on third place.

Griez­mann headed in a re­bound for his 21st league goal in the 55th, and added a 22nd af­ter Raul Garcia struck from long range.

Le­vante also edged away from the rel­e­ga­tion zone with a 1-0 victory at Getafe from Vic­tor Casadesus’ headed goal in the 35th, while six­th­place Vil­lar­real drew 0-0 at Real So­ciedad as both failed to break win­less runs.

So­ciedad re­mained in 12th just ahead of Getafe, while Le­vante moved into 15th at five points above the drop.

With Messi in fine form, Barcelona dom­i­nated the derby from the start.

He fell back into mid­field where he picked Es­panyol with his passes over the de­fense, and only goal­keeper Kiko Casilla pre­vented the hosts from suf­fer­ing a big­ger de­feat.

Messi had al­ready spot­ted runs by Ney­mar and Alba that ended in saves by Casilla be­fore his long pass was squared by Alba and fell to Ney­mar to drive home af­ter Suarez let it run past. It was Ney­mar’s fourth goal in five matches, and his 31st in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son.

“Messi is one of a kind,” Es­panyol manager Ser­gio Gon­za­lez said.

Suarez also con­tin­ued to excel as a play­maker when he in­ter­changed passes with An­dres Ini­esta be­fore find­ing Messi alone at the far post to slot a shot un­der Casil­las from a tight an­gle.

Down 2- 0, Es­panyol fi­nally emerged from its half, but that left its de­fense only more ex­posed. Casilla was called on to parry Ney­mar’s strike af­ter Suarez set him up be­fore half­time, and block the Brazil­ian’s chip shot just af­ter the break.

Barcelona mid­fielder Xavi Her­nan­dez went on as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute to make his 500th league ap­pear­ance, the eighth most in the his­tory of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Es­panyol took ad­van­tage of its ex­tra man only in the fi­nal 20 min­utes with a se­ries of cor­ner kicks that Barcelona de­fended with­out prob­lems, be­fore goalie Clau­dio Bravo de­nied sub­sti­tute Chris­tian Stu­ani four min­utes from time.


FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, of Uruguay, right, du­els for the ball against Es­panyol’s Hec­tor Moreno dur­ing a Span­ish La Liga soc­cer match at Cor­nella-El Prat sta­dium in Cor­nella Llo­bre­gat, Spain on Satur­day, April 25.

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