BARCELONA: A magical Lionel Messi and on-form Luis Suarez scored doubles apiece as champions Barcelona thrashed newly-promoted Huesca 8-2 to join Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday.
Barca’s third win of the campaign in as many games saw Ernesto Valverde’s men go top thanks to superior goal difference over Real before the break for Nations League matches.
Celta Vigo, who stunned Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Saturday, sit in third place at two points adrift with Atletico now five points adrift of the top after a shaky start to the campaign.
Real Betis ended a 12-year wait for a home victory over local rivals Sevilla by winning the local derby 1-0, Valencia are still without a win this season after being held to a 2-2 draw at neighbours Levante and Alaves came from behind to beat visiting Espanyol.
Newly promoted Huesca enjoyed short-lived celebrations after stunning Barca with a goal just three minutes into their first league visit to the Nou Camp when Colombian forward Cucho Hernandez deflected the ball in from point-blank range.
But reality soon kicked in, a slick Messi levelling in the 16th minute after leaving right-back Luisinho on the deck on his way to beating Argentine goalkeeper Axel Werner.
An own goal from Jorge Pulido gave Barca the lead and Suarez extended their lead by scoring for the first time in five games in all competitions after the video assistant referee (VAR) overturned an offside call from the linesman.
Huesca’s Alex Gallar pulled one back before halftime to make it 3-2 but any hope of a revival from the visitors was soon killed off by three Barca goals in 11 minutes from Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic and another strike from Messi.
Jordi Alba capped a brilliant performance to score the seventh after setting up two of the earlier goals, while Suarez added number eight with a penalty in stoppage time as Messi turned down the chance to complete a hat-trick.
“It burns to concede a goal on the first attack since it makes you think that you started the match far too relaxed,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. “Huesca gave it its all, but we found our short-passing game and ended up doing a lot of damage.”
BETIS EDGE SEVILLE DERBY
Veteran forward Joaquin Sanchez went on as a late substitute and headed Betis to their first home win over Sevilla since 2006.
The 37-year-old Sanchez became the oldest scorer in a Seville top-flight derby when he rose to head home at the near post in the 79th minute, shortly after the visitors had had midfielder Roque Mesa sent off for two bookings at Benito Villamarin Stadium.
Betis went into the derby under pressure after taking only a point from their first two games and made an intense start as Cristian Tello and Loren went close to scoring while Sergio Canales had a goal ruled out for offside.
Sevilla nearly scored through Franco Vazquez and Gabriel Mercado but handed their rivals an extra man advantage when Mesa was booked for fouling goalkeeper Pau Lopez, and Joaquin took full advantage to the delight of the 60,000 supporters inside the packed Benito Villamarin stadium.
“This was the dream derby, even though I’ve played in many of them, this is what I dreamed of,” said Joaquin, who is in his second spell at boyhood club Betis. “Scoring in front of my fans, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Valencia started this season with the two objectives of doing well on their long-awaited return to the Champions League and maintaining a top-four finish in Spain.
But three matches into the season and Marcelino Garcia’s team have yet to win.
Valencia twice had to come from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at 10-man Levante, their crosstown rivals, on Sunday.
Roger Marti scored both goals for Levante, with Denis Cheryshev making it 1-1 before Dani Parejo split the points by converting a penalty early in the second half. Levante’s Coke Andujar picked up a second booking in the 76th.
The video assistant referee awarded a penalty in favour of Espanyol and annulled a goal by the Barcelona-based side in a 2-1 loss at Alaves.
Leo Baptistao converted the penalty, only for Alaves to fight back with goals by Borja Baston and Ruben Sobrino.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2018