Title holders Barcelona kept pace with Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga on Saturday as Luis Suarez and Neymar once again compensated for the absence of Lionel Messi with a goal apiece in a 2-0 win at Getafe, while Madrid were comfortable 3-1 winners over Las Palmas thanks to goals from Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jese Rodriguez.
Neymar and Suarez have now combined for Barcelona’s last 14 league goals since Messi went down with knee ligament damage over a month ago. However, it was Sergi Roberto who shone brightest for Barcelona as his stunning back-heel assist freed Suarez for the opener before also crossing for Neymar to volley home the second to cap off a rapid counter-attack.
“I think we played a very intelligent game,” Suarez told Canal Plus. “We controlled the ball during the whole game and tried to find the space we could.”
However, the former Liverpool man denied he and Neymar’s relationship was making it easy to forget Messi in his absence. “People remember him just as well because he is the best player in the world.”
On-loan Celtic striker Stefan Scepovic had Getafe’s best opportunity of the game 12 minutes in, but he scuffed his shot wide with just Claudio Bravo to beat and with that went Getafe’s chance of causing an upset.
Barcelona’s dominance in possession was rewarded with a brilliantly crafted opening goal as Roberto flicked Neymar’s cross perfectly into Suarez’s path and the Uruguayan kept his cool to register his 300th career goal for club and country. Roberto was at the heart of the second goal just before the hour mark, too, as Bravo collected a corner and bowled the ball out for the midfielder, who carried it forward before picking out Neymar and the Brazilian fired a volley in at the near post.
Madrid also enjoyed an easy afternoon despite missing a host of star names against La Liga newcomers Las Palmas. Real were without Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema through injury as coach Rafael Benitez preferred not to risk any of his stars ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s visit in the Champions League on Tuesday.
However, they suffered another injury scare as Luka Modric was replaced at half-time with a hip problem putting his participation in midweek in doubt.
The Canary Islanders were making their first visit to the Santiago Bernabeu in 13 years, but couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start as Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo put Madrid 2-0 up inside 15 minutes. Hernan’s header briefly gave the visitors hope seven minutes before half-time, yet Madrid restored their two-goal advantage just five minutes later through Jese Rodriguez’s fine finish.
“We played very well again in the first-half. We started the game sensationally well and then maybe with the advantage our tempo dropped in the second-half,” said Madrid boss Rafael Benitez. “But we controlled the game in the second-half thanks to our good play in the first.”
Elsewhere, Celta Vigo moved ahead of Atletico Madrid into third as they twice came from behind to defeat David Moyes’s Real Sociedad 3-2 at Anoeta. Former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas equalised both times for the Galicians after Imanol Agirretxe had put Sociedad in front and Pablo Hernandez’s stunning volley a minute from time moved the visitors to within three points of Madrid and Barca.
Villarreal secured their first win in four league games as goals either side of half-time from Mario Gaspar and Cedric Bakambu saw off Sevilla 2-1. Fernando Llorente reduced the arrears 14 minutes from time, but defeat saw Sevilla slip eight points off the top four ahead of their clash with Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Valencia moved up to sixth as three second-half goals handed them bragging rights against local rivals Levante. Paco Alcacer opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Sofiane Feghouli and Zakaria Bakkali sealed the three points.