Neymar scores 4 goals for Barcelona; Ronaldo leads Madrid
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 18, 2015 11:52 AM
FC Barcelona's Neymar, from Brazil, left, celebrates after scoring against Rayo Vallecano during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Neymar scored four goals and set up another in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish league on Saturday, while Cristiano Ronaldo led Real Madrid with a goal and an assist in a 3-0 victory over Levante.
The results left the Spanish powerhouses provisionally atop the league standings with 18 points from eight matches, with Madrid ahead on goal difference. Villarreal is two points behind but can regain the lead when it hosts fourth-place Celta on Sunday.
Neymar converted penalty kicks in the 22nd and 32nd minutes after twice being brought down inside the area, then added two more from close range in the 69th and 70th after assists by Luis Suarez. The Uruguay striker netted Barcelona's fifth goal with a shot from inside the area after a cross by Neymar in the 77th.
Javi Guerra had opened the scoring for the visitors at the Camp Nou in the 15th, and Jozabed Sanchez scored Rayo's second goal in the 86th.
Neymar said it was one of his best games with Barcelona since joining the Catalan club two years ago.
"I'm very happy because of the victory and because of the way we played," the 23-year-old Brazilian star said. "It's never easy to play against a quality team like Rayo. We did our job and it was a great victory."
It was Neymar's first four-goal performance since Brazil's 4-0 win over Japan in a friendly just over a year ago.
He now leads the Spanish league with eight goals, two more than Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema.
"Impressive, unstoppable, electric," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said of Neymar. "Almost impossible to stop without committing penalties."
Ronaldo set up a goal and scored another in a three-minute span at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier Saturday.
He set up Marcelo's goal in the 27th and scored his own with a well-placed right-footed shot from just outside the area in the 30th. Substitute Jese Rodriguez closed the scoring in the 81st.
Barcelona, still without Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta because of injuries, had lost two of its last three league games and needed the victory to avoid losing ground to Real Madrid and Villarreal.
Madrid also got the win despite playing with a depleted squad because of injuries. Coach Rafa Benitez was without defender Sergio Ramos, midfielder Luka Modric and striker Benzema, who had scored six goals in as many league games this season.
"We can take a lot of positives out of today's game," Benitez said. "We won 3-0 despite all the problems that we were facing and we leave with the team ahead (in the standings)."
Madrid was coming off two consecutive draws in the Spanish league, including a disappointing scoreless result against lowly Malaga in its last game at the Bernabeu.
"We were missing a lot of people and Cristiano took on the responsibility," Benitez said.
Ronaldo scored his 11th goal in all competitions this season.
According to UEFA, it was Ronaldo's 324th goal with Madrid, allowing him to surpass Raul Gonzalez's mark as the club's all-time leading scorer, but Madrid credited its player with the feat when he scored in a game last month.
Although Madrid dominated from the start under steady rain at the Bernabeu, Levante had a few good chances on counterattacks and Keylor Navas had to make a few very difficult saves to keep a clean sheet, including a remarkable one on a close-range header in the first half.
Barcelona's Claudio Bravo also had to work hard at Camp Nou, especially as Rayo pressured in the beginning of the second half and had a few good opportunities to tie the game.
Also Saturday, Eibar held Sevilla to a 1-1 draw, halting the visitor's two-game winning streak.
In other results, Valencia beat Malaga 3-0, while Espanyol won 3-1 at Real Betis.