Messi, Iniesta on fire as Barca, Sevilla close gap on Madrid

Madrid, Dec 19 (IANS) Luis Suarez celebrated his new contract with two goals, but Leonel Messi and Andres Iniesta were the stars as Barcelona Football Club confirmed they have turned the corner in question of form with a 4-1 win at home to local rivals Espanyol.

Iniesta and Messi were outstanding in helping to pull apart an Espanyol side which had gone to the Camp Nou after conceding just one goal in almost 600 minutes football and were unfortunate to lose goalkeeper, Diego Lopez through injury after 52 minutes, reports Xinhua.

After Suarez had scored in the 17th and 66th minutes, Jordi Alba added a third and although David Lopez pulled a goal back for Espanyol with 12 minutes remaining, Messi confirmed the win with a magnificent goal in the last minute of the game to take Barca to just three points of Real Madrid, who have played a game less.

Sevilla moved to within four points of Real Madrid with a 4-1 win at home to Malaga in a game which was all-but over after 45 minutes as Luciano Vietto (twice), Ben Yedder and Vitolo took advantage of neat passing coupled with some poor Malaga defending to put Sevilla 4-0 up by the break.

Adil Rami was sent off after seeing two yellow cards in under 10 seconds on the hour before Sandro Ramirez scored a smart free kick to salvage at least some pride for Malaga.

Villarreal have enjoyed a good week and Fran Escriba’s men will go into the New Year fourth in the table thanks to a 3-1 win away to Sporting Gijon which followed on from Monday’s 3-0 thrashing of Atletico Madrid.

Villarreal were the better side from start to finish and quickly led 2-0 thanks to goals from Jonathan Dos Santos and Nicola Sansome, whose 6th goal of the season doubled their lead in the 19th minute.

Sporting coach Aberlado Fernandez reacted quickly with a double change after just 35 minutes, but man of the match, Alejandre Pato capped an excellent individual display 15 minutes from time.

There was no doubt where the points were heading despite Carlos Carmona’s late consolation for Sporting.

Saul Niguez’s impressive second half shot gave Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at home to an impressive Las Palmas, but it was another unconvincing display from Diego Simeone’s side, who had to watch as Las Palmas controlled much of the ball, but failed to convert control into sufficient clear cut chances.

Real Sociedad go into 2017 fifth in the table thanks to a convincing win away to struggling Granada.

Second half goals from Jon Bautista, who had just come on as a substitute, and Juanmi gave ‘La Real’ a result which reflected their control on the pitch.

Leganes played for over an hour with 10 men after goalkeeper Iago Herrerin was sent off, but held on for a 1-1 draw at home to Eibar. Miguel Angel Guerrero and Bebe scored the goals for their respective sides.

Deportivo la Coruna took an important step away from the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at home to Osasuna, thanks to first half goals from in-form strikers Florin Andone and Ryan Babel.

Osasuna have now lost all of their six games since Joaquin Caparros replaced Quique Martin as coach whilst scoring just one goal in the process.

–IANS

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