Madrid, May 7: Defending champions FC Barcelo and arch-rivals Real Madrid maintained their particular head-to-head in the Spanish La Liga football championship as both sides clinched wins which left them neck-and-neck in the title race.
Barcelo on Saturday had to work hard to eventually claim a comfortable win at home against Villarreal, who are battling for a top-four finish themselves, reports Xinhua news agency.
Real Madrid pounded already-relegated Grada 4-0 away as they took their points tally to 84 points — same as Barcelo having played a match less than the Catalans, who are ahead on better goal difference.
Neymar opened the scoring for Barcelo against a well-organised rival, but Cedric Bakambu equalised after half an hour at the Camp Nou Stadium.
Lionel Messi scored the first of his two goals with the help of a deflection on the stroke of halftime and although Villarreal offered further resistance after the break, further goals from Luis Suarez and a Messi pelty (his 35h league goal of the campaign) sealed the win.
“We made the difference tell in the second half. It was then that our opponents really started to feel it after chasing the ball for so long,” Barcelo head coach Luis Enririque said after the game, according to his club’s website.
Enrique also had special words of praise for Neymar. “He interprets football like nobody else, not even Brazilians. Most of his solo runs are so quick I don’t even have time to see what he’s done,” he said.
“It’s a joy to watch. Any football fan should appreciate what Neymar does, sometimes it’s more like ballet than football.”
Madrid rested key players ahead of next week’s Champions League return leg away against Atletico Madrid. And the ‘plan-B’ as it is becoming known worked well again with two goals each from James Rodriguez, who put his side 2-0 up in just 11 minutes, and Alvaro Morata, who scored in the 30th and 35th minute, sealed an easy 4-0 win before halftime.
“We can talk about those two (James and Morata) and all the players who play less. They go out and do remarkably well, although it’s not easy. It’s the result of the hard work that all the players put in, all the players who are physically fit are contributing,” Real chief coach Zinedine Zidane said, as reported by the club’s website after the game.
“We keep racking up the points and we’re happy. We started the game well and that is what pleases us coaches. It shows that all of the players are focussed and intent on doing well. Every time they have the chance to play they take it and score.”
Saul Niguez scored the only goal of the game as he hit a 69th minute winner to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at home to Eibar.
The win came on the back of Atletico’s midweek defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League and following Sevilla’s 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad on Friday. It means that Atletico need just one point from their last two games to assure another third place finish.
Carlos Carmo’s second half goal gave Sporting Gijon a vital win at home against Las Palmas to keep their hopes of avoiding relegation alive, even though they remain three points behind Leganes, who have a game in hand. IANS