BARCELONA: 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.
“We leave here with one piece of bad news which is Busquets’s injury although it’s not as serious as we thought,” Barca coach Luis Enrique told reporters after a fourth straight win in all competitions.
“We have very good players in midfield who we can rely on. After everything I feel satisfied with what I saw on the pitch.
“We said we needed to get better results and that’s what we’re doing, and that’s giving us more confidence, but we’re still far from the level we want to be at.”
Barca are third on 41 points, two behind Real, who beat Malaga 2-1 on Saturday and have a game in hand.
Sevilla are second on 42 points 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 but are level on 35 points with Real Sociedad, who beat Celta Vigo 1-0 on Sunday with a solitary header by striker Juanmi in the 71st minute.