Barca return to winning ways

Suarez has a hand in seven goals to keep Catalans atop La Liga ahead of Madrid rivals

MADRID • Luis Suarez scored four goals and contributed three assists as Barcelona's stuttering La Liga title charge sparked back to life with an 8-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna.

Three successive defeats had put the brakes on Barcelona's title hopes but Suarez made sure the losing run would not continue when he gave Barca a two-goal cushion at the break by scoring in the 11th and 24th minutes.

The Uruguayan striker then provided the cross for Ivan Rakitic to grab the third three minutes after the break.

Suarez completed his hat-trick five minutes later and scored his fourth in the 64th minute.

Lionel Messi, Marc Bartra and Neymar rounded off the scoring late on.

Luis Suarez celebrates completing his hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao. He later added another goal to take his season's tally to 30, clawing within one of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi standings.
Luis Suarez celebrates completing his hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao. He later added another goal to take his season's tally to 30, clawing within one of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi standings. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Barca had drawn their previous two league games with Deportivo and headed to the Riazor without their influential defender Gerard Pique (suspension) in search of a first win in five league games.

Neymar, who has been confirmed by Barca to play in the Olympics in August and will miss the Centenary Copa America in the United States in June with the agreement of the Brazilian federation, also ended his drought of five games without a goal.

Barca coach Luis Enrique praised his team's efficiency in front of goal but said the performance was not any better than in the 2-1 defeat by Valencia last Sunday.

"This time we had infinite solutions and we moved the ball around midfield really well, but I insist that we did the same against Valencia and look at the result," he said.

"We have a marvellous challenge in front of us and we are better prepared for it after this spectacular result."

Suarez echoed his coach by saying: "We are human, we aren't machines and we can all commit errors or have a bad game."

"Today is a demonstration that the group is more united than ever and desperate to win the league. It is still in our hands."

Barca's superior head-to-head record keeps them ahead of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table on 79 points with four games remaining as Fernando Torres' hot streak continued with the winner in a 1-0 victory at Athletic Bilbao.

He scored for the fifth consecutive game with a towering header seven minutes before half-time in Bilbao.

"I am happy because the goals have helped the team win the points that bring us closer to our objectives," said Torres.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid knew they had to win to realistically remain in the race as they kicked off two hours after Barca, but impressed again in racking up an eighth consecutive La Liga win.

Real remain a point behind in third as goals from Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez and Luka Modric ensured a 3-0 win over Villarreal.

Elsewhere, Valencia thrashed Eibar 4-0 to earn a third consecutive league win that takes them eighth on 43 points.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Barca return to winning ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe