Barcelona ease past Las Palmas, Atletico Madrid narrowly beat Betis

Reuters , Saturday 14 Jan 2017

Barcelona
Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores a goal against Las Palmas's goalkeeper Javi Varas and Helder Lopes. (Reuters)

Luis Suarez scored a brace and Lionel Messi was also on target as Barcelona thrashed Las Palmas 5-0 on Saturday with a ruthless second-half display at the Nou Camp to provisionally go second and cut the gap with leaders Real Madrid to two points.

Uruguay international Suarez scored his 101st goal for Barcelona by stroking in Andre Gomes' cutback in the 15th minute as the Portuguese midfielder recorded his first assist for the club since his 35-million-euro move from Valencia last summer.

Messi scored for the seventh consecutive competitive game by mopping up a loose ball on the rebound in the 52nd minute after Rafinha's shot was only parried by goalkeeper Javi Varas, while Suarez curled in a pass from Rafinha to get his second and Barca's third in the 57th.

Suarez spurned the chance to seal a hat-trick a minute later but Arda Turan mopped up after Varas had saved to score the fourth, while out-of-favour right back Aleix Vidal netted his first goal for the club in the 80th minute.

Barcelona are second in the standings, two points behind Real Madrid, who have played two games fewer and face third placed Sevilla on Sunday. Atletico Madrid are fourth on 34 points after beating Real Betis 1-0.

Barca coach Luis Enrique had rotated his side after Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the King's Cup, resting Neymar, Gerard Pique, captain Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto but still watched his side dominate Las Palmas.

"I'm most happy with how we played without the ball. It was our best display of the season in that aspect and one of the best since I've been here. That was how we prevented Las Palmas creating problems for us," said Luis Enrique.

"Somehow we didn't kill off the game in the first half but we were much better in the second. The entire team's defensive work was enormous."

Elsewhere on Saturday Atletico earned a third consecutive league win by beating Real Betis 1-0 in a soporific game at the Vicente Calderon thanks to a goal by Nicolas Gaitan, who stuck a foot out to divert a deflected cross in at the near post in the ninth minute in one of few openings at either end.

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