‘Little bit surprised’ Suarez shines for Barcelona, Real Madrid rally hard and Atletico keep La Liga fight running at the top
Luis Suarez struck four goals for the second time in four days as Barcelona moved back to the top of Primera Liga with the help of three penalties in a 6-0 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
Only Barca’s superior head-to-head record continues to separate them from Atletico Madrid with three games remaining as Angel Correa’s deflected strike handed Diego Simeone’s men a 1-0 win over Malaga.
Gareth Bale ensured Real Madrid remain just a point behind in third as he struck twice to inspire a stunning fightback from two goals down to win 3-2 at Rayo Vallecano.
Suarez hit four as Barca bounced back from three consecutive league defeats in style with an 8-0 thrashing of Deportivo la Coruna in midweek, and his eight-goal week takes him three clear of Ronaldo in the fight to be La Liga’s top scorer.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barca with a looping header into an empty net despite Sporting protests that Suarez had fouled goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar in the build-up.
Barca had to wait until 25 minutes from time to make the game safe when Suarez slotted home his 50th goal of the season from Andres Iniesta’s pass.
The Uruguayan then added two more from the penalty spot after Roberto Canella handled and Antonio Sanabria upended Neymar inside the area.
Neymar converted Barca’s third spot-kick after Ognjen Vranjes was shown an incredibly harsh second yellow card for a push on the Brazilian.
And Suarez rounded off the scoring when he smashed home Messi’s pass off the inside of the post.
“I’m a little bit surprised,” Suarez told Movistar+.
“I just want to enjoy the fact the goals helped the team in the second-half after a difficult first-half.
“We didn’t play the ball at the speed we normally do and at half-time we had to reflect on the fact we weren’t playing well. In the second-half we showed that we need to play with that intensity all the time.”
REAL MADRID RALLY
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane labelled Gareth Bale’s display as “phenomenal” as the Welshman struck twice after Real went 2-0 down.
Without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale took responsibility to keep Real’s title hopes alive after Rayo went 2-0 up inside 15 minutes thanks to goals from Adrian Embarba and Miku.
A towering header from Bale brought Madrid back into the game and fittingly he struck the winner nine minutes from time after Lucas Vazquez had equalised just after the break.
“He is very happy to make the difference,” Zidane said of Bale. “When we needed him he was phenomenal. He scored two, but even without speaking about the goals, he played very well.”
Bale’s double took his tally to 18 in just 21 Primera Liga appearances despite an injury-disrupted campaign.
And Zidane is hopeful of more Bale magic on his first return to England since joining Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur three years ago when Real travel to face Manchester City in the first leg of their Uefa Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.
“I’m happy because he needed a bit of time and now he’s in good shape. Now he must rest up and start thinking about Tuesday. We needed him today and he performed really well”.
Madrid suffered another injury scare as Karim Benzema limped off just before half-time with a knee problem.
However, Zidane is hopeful of having both his compatriot and Ronaldo fit to face City.
“Cristiano will travel to Manchester,” he added. “We’re going to assess Benzema. All that I can say is that it’s not a knock. We’ll get back to Valdebebas [training ground] and do what we need to do there to assess what the issue is.
“I hope that it’s nothing serious and that he’ll be available for Tuesday.”
ATLETICO KEEP PROGRESSING
Atletico Madrid kept up the pressure on rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid in the race for the Primera Liga title with a 1-0 home win over a stubborn Malaga side.
Angel Correa climbed off the bench to score the winning goal just after the hour mark as coach Diego Simeone watched on from the stands, having been sent there by the referee following a bizarre first-half incident.
The victory was a fifth on the trot in the Primera Liga for the Rojiblancos and, as well as keeping them flying high domestically, tees them up nicely for their Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich in midweek.
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Published: April 23, 2016 04:00 AM