With Messi suspended, Suarez leads Barca to win at Granada
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 03, 2017 10:38 AM
JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Luis Suarez filled in for the suspended Lionel Messi by scoring one goal and participating in three more to keep Barcelona close to Spanish leader Real Madrid on Sunday.
Barcelona's 4-1 victory at 10-man Granada left the defending champions two points behind Madrid, which won 3-0 at home against Alaves earlier in the day. Madrid still has a game in hand.
Asked about his team's impressive performance, despite Messi's absence due to an accumulation of five yellow cards, coach Luis Enrique said "squads win titles."
"We played a serious match. The game got complicated when they drew even on an isolated play, but we quickly resolved the situation and could establish the ample margin of victory that I think we deserved," he said.
Suarez imposed himself on the match from the start, hitting the bar and forcing two good saves from Guillermo Ochoa before he chipped the ball over the goalkeeper a minute before halftime.
Suarez's goal was his 23rd in the league this season, leaving him second to Messi with 25.
After Granada leveled through substitute Jeremie Boga, Suarez turned playmaker by muscling off his marker and passing for substitute Paco Alcacer to beat Ochoa in the 64th.
The little-used Alcacer made the most of his limited time, coming on in the first half after Rafinha injured his right knee.
A shot by Ivan Rakitic was deflected in by Matthieu Saunier in the 83rd, shortly after Granada's Uche Agbo picked up a second booking. Suarez played a part in this goal too, when he tried to dribble past a defender who knocked the ball into Rakitic's path.
Neymar capped the victory in stoppage time after Suarez passed for Alcacer, who then found the Brazilian alone to tap home. Neymar also hit the upright with the final kick of the match.
Granada stayed in second-to-last place.
REAL MADRID 3, ALAVES 0
Karim Benzema continued his strong scoring form with a fourth goal in as many rounds to keep Madrid atop the table.
Madrid dictated the first half and Benzema's opener in the 31st came from a one-two with Dani Carvajal, who had gone on as a substitute after Raphael Varane picked up an early leg injury.
"(Benzema) always finds the way to get the team going by either scoring or setting up goals," coach Zinedine Zidane said.
But in its first match since a long international break, Madrid faded in the second half and Alaves threatened to snatch a draw.
The win wasn't secure until the 85th when Francisco "Isco" Alarcon fired in a second goal from a pass by Cristiano Ronaldo. Defender Nacho Fernandez then headed in the rebound after Gareth Bale's free kick came off the bar.
"Before the second goal we were having difficulties, and suddenly Ronaldo makes a pass for Isco, who controls the ball well and scores," Zidane said. "We know that that is what we have and at any moment we can hurt our rivals."
Edgar Mendez had the best shot for Alaves in the 60th when he was left all alone in the six-yard box, only for the forward to drive the ball back past the far post.
Deyverson and Manu Garcia also went close with headers for the Basque team that is outperforming its small budget this season and faces Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final. Alaves remained in 10th place.
SEVILLA 0, SPORTING GIJON 0
Sevilla's slump continued after a fourth consecutive round without a win. That cost it the chance to reclaim third place from Atletico Madrid.
Jorge Sampaoli's side had enjoyed an excellent season but, in the last month, it has been eliminated from the Champions League's Round of 16 and seen its Liga title chances fading away.
"The team isn't taking advantage of its chances," Sampaoli said. "We have to keep working to turn this around."
VALENCIA 3, DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA 0
Goalkeeper Diego Alves saved his fifth penalty of the season, improving his career record in Spain to 21 out of 46.
His save against Faycal Fajr came just before Ezequiel Garay scored Valencia's first goal.
An own-goal by Raul Albentosa put Valencia 2-0 ahead before Jose Cancelo added a solo effort late.