Suarez hits hat-trick as Barca trounce Girona, ‘BBC’ back on air for Real

0
565

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona forwards Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez combined to devastating effect to hammer Girona 6-1 on Saturday as they went 10 points clear at the top of La Liga and set a club record of 32 games unbeaten in the league.

Visiting striker Portu gave Girona a shock lead in the third minute of their first league game at the Nou Camp. However, Suarez quickly levelled down the other end, while two goals from Messi and another from the Uruguayan saw Barca march into a 4-1 lead at halftime.

Barca’s record signing Coutinho had set up Suarez’s second goal and then struck for the first time in La Liga with a spectacular long-distance shot from well outside of the area in the 66th minute. Suarez completed a hat-trick in the 76th, tapping in a cut-back from Ousmane Dembele.

Earlier on Saturday Real Madrid’s ‘BBC’ strikeforce hit back with a vengeance when Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all scored in a 4-0 win at home to Alaves, a fifth straight win in all competitions for Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Barca lead the standings on 65 points, 10 clear of Atletico Madrid who visit Sevilla on Sunday and 14 ahead of champions Real.

Ernesto Valverde’s side also surpassed the club’s longest run without a defeat in the league, which had stood since April 2011 when Pep Guardiola was in charge of the Catalans.

Valverde has favoured a 4-4-2 formation for most of the season but after his side had struggled to a 1-1 draw at Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday the coach opted for an ultra-attacking 4-3-3 against Girona, with Dembele often joining the South American trio to create a ruthless four-man attack.

CLEVER BACKHEEL

Ronaldo put Real ahead on the stroke of halftime, taking advantage of a clever backheel from Benzema and before celebrating the goal he pointed to his maligned French team mate, who had been subjected to plenty of criticism from the home fans in recent weeks.

Benzema was also the catalyst for Real’s second goal which came under a minute into the second half, with the striker winning the ball back in midfield and tearing towards goal, slipping it into Bale’s path for the Wales international to slot it inside the near post.

Ronaldo struck Real’s third goal of the day and his 299th in La Liga in the 61st minute, meeting a cutback from in-form winger Lucas Vazquez first time and sending it under the reach of former Real goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco.

Ronaldo then surrendered the opportunity to score a hat-trick by offering Benzema penalty-taking duties after Bale was brought down, and the Frenchman made no mistake, converting from the spot in the 89th minute.

It was the first time Benzema had taken a penalty for Real and the first time he, Bale and Ronaldo had all scored in the same game since 2016.

“The ‘BBC’ have always been important to us, and what we want is for every player to feel 100 percent. But Lucas (Vazquez) was very good too. Our four forwards performed really well,” said Zidane in a news conference.

“I’m very happy with Ronaldo’s gesture,” he added.

“This is a team game and it was a wonderful gesture. Karim played very well and he deserved to score as he contributed so much in our build-up play.”