Football

Barca stretch unbeaten league run to 31 games across two seasons

Catalan side equal club record set under Guardiola in 2011

Barcelona got back to winning ways on Saturday with a 2-0 victory at Eibar to move 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba helped them to their first win in three matches after consecutive league draws with Getafe and Espanyol.

In the process, Ernesto Valverde's side also stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 31 games across two seasons, matching a club record set by Pep Guardiola's team in April 2011.

Suarez scored after just 16 minutes when he latched on to a pass from Lionel Messi to round the hosts' goalkeeper and slot into an empty net.

Messi hit the woodwork later in the game, as did Eibar's Fabian Orellana, who was sent off with 25 minutes left for a second booking.

Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar was also dismissed later for angry protests against referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez.

Messi's incisive ball to Suarez put him level with Real Madrid great Michel as the joint-top assist provider in La Liga history, with 147 goal-creating passes.

Messi was also involved when Barca finally made the most of their extra man in the 88th minute, running towards goal and into Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic, allowing Alba to sidefoot the loose ball into the near corner with his weaker right foot.

Alba's goal, which he celebrated by sucking his thumb in dedication to his new-born son, sealed Barca's first win in three games after surprise successive draws against Espanyol and Getafe, which had cut their lead at the top of the league from 11 to seven points.

The hard-fought win takes Barca on to 62 points for the season, 10 above nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, who hosted Athletic Bilbao late last night.

"It was very important for us to win today after the two draws," said Barca coach Valverde.

"They (Eibar) pushed us very hard and played at a very high level. We struggled in the second half and took a long time to get into their area but it was easier once they went a man down."

Valverde fielded a full-strength starting XI despite a vital Champions League last-16 first-leg game at Chelsea on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).

He started veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta over record signing Philippe Coutinho, even though the Brazilian is cup-tied from European games.

Meanwhile, Valencia produced a quick turnaround to win 2-1 at basement club Malaga to ensure they will end the weekend in third place.

Nigerian forward Brown Ideye gave struggling Malaga a surprise lead in the 27th minute and they looked on course for a first league win since Dec 10.

But Francis Coquelin equalised in the 80th minute and Valencia captain Dani Parejo netted the winner from the penalty spot in the 85th.

Elsewhere, Sevilla warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester United on Thursday morning (Singapore time) by winning 2-1 at relegation-threatened Las Palmas.

Sevilla led through strikes from Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia either side of halftime.

Las Palmas pulled a goal back through Jonathan Calleri's converted penalty and Sevilla enjoyed a huge slice of fortune when Alejandro Galvez scored in injury time but his chipped goal was incorrectly ruled offside.

Deportivo La Coruna suffered a second straight defeat under Clarence Seedorf, after a a 1-0 loss at Alaves. - REUTERS

SELECTED RESULTS:

  • Malaga 1 Valencia 2
  • Sociedad 3 Levante 0
  • Alaves 1 Deportivo 0
Football