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Messi and Suarez help Barca to down Eibar, Sevilla stage fightback

Reuters , Sunday 22 Jan 2017
Barcelona's players celebrate their opener during the Spanish league football match SD Eibar vs FC Barcelona at the Ipurua stadium in Eibar on January 22, 2017 (Photo: AFP)
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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored their 15th league goals of the season as Barcelona stayed on the heels of La Liga leaders Real Madrid by winning 4-0 at Eibar on Sunday although the win was marred by an injury to key midfielder Sergio Busquets.

Substitute Denis Suarez scored his first goal for Barca, firing the visitors into the lead from the edge of the area in the 31st minute after replacing Busquets, who had been carried off on a stretcher with strained ankle ligaments following a crunching tackle by Eibar's Gonzalo Escalante.

Messi stretched Barca's lead by finishing off a brilliant move with Luis Suarez in the 50th minute and the Uruguayan joined his close friend and strike partner on 15 league goals by robbing an Eibar defender and finishing inside the near post in the 68th.

Neymar added an extra shine to the victory by netting in the 91st minute, scoring his first goal for Barca from open play since October.

The champions had travelled to Eibar without captain Andres Iniesta through injury and suspended defender Javier Mascherano, with coach Luis Enrique expressing concern about the state of the pitch at the tiny Ipurua stadium the day before the game.

Their nerves were heightened when Escalante trod on Busquets's ankle in the 10th minute, the Argentine escaping a card for his horror tackle to the chagrin of the visiting dugout, and it took a fine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to prevent Adrian Gonzalez giving Eibar the lead.

Denis Suarez's opener settled Barca's nerves, however, and from then on they dominated proceedings. Luis Enrique's side are third on 41 points, two behind Real, who beat Malaga 2-1 on Saturday and have a game in hand.

Sevilla are second after following last week's recovery against Real by staging another stirring comeback to win 4-3 at Osasuna earlier on Sunday, while Atletico Madrid faltered again despite a brilliant strike from Antoine Griezmann earning them a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Late goals from Franco Vazquez and Pablo Sarabia secured the points for Sevilla after their captain Vicente Iborra had scored for both sides in an action-packed clash between teams from opposite ends of the table.

Jorge Sampaoli's side, now a point off the pace but having played a game more, have enjoyed consistent results at home but their poor away form looked set to haunt them again when Sergio Leon put bottom side Osasuna ahead in the 15th minute.

Substitute Sarabia sealed a fifth straight league win by scoring a fourth Sevilla goal from the edge of the area in the 92nd minute to put his side on 42 points from 19 games, their biggest ever total for the first half of a season, although Kenan Kodro scored a consolation goal for the hosts in the 93rd.

In Bilbao, a three-game winning streak in the league for Atletico Madrid came to an end despite Diego Simeone's side getting off to a dream start.

Koke's cross, which was intended for Griezmann, went straight into the net in the third minute but the home side got over the shock, drawing level in the 42nd with a thumping strike from Inigo Lekue.

Oscar de Marcos headed Athletic in front in the 56th minute, but Griezmann had other ideas, delivering a low finish off the far post with 10 minutes remaining after having a goal ruled out for offside.

Atletico remain fourth in the standings on 35 points while Athletic are seventh on 29, two points behind Villarreal in sixth. 

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