Suarez, Messi on target as Barca go five points clear

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Villarreal as the leaders won for the first time in three La Liga games yesterday morning (Singapore time).

In the process, they also restored a five-point cushion at the top of the table.

Barca looked set for a third consecutive league draw as they created few opportunities.

But they were presented with the advantage of an extra man when Villarreal midfielder Daniel Raba was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Sergio Busquets on the hour mark.

Barca did not take long to cash in and Suarez broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute, rounding goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to complete a move of quick passes by Messi, Jordi Alba and substitute Paco Alcacer.

The visitors stretched their lead 11 minutes later with the help of a haphazard backpass from Victor Ruiz to Busquets, who played in Messi for his 14th league goal this campaign.

Barca lead the standings on 39 points, five clear of second-placed Valencia and six ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid, who pipped Real Betis 1-0 on Sunday. Champions Real Madrid are fourth on 31 points.

Villarreal coach Javi Calleja said the red card was unfair on his side. "We were playing well and managing the periods of the game but everything changed with the red card," he said.

"From the sidelines, it didn't look like a red card and I'm certain that if it had been the other way round, it wouldn't have been a sending-off."

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde, however, insisted that the red card was fair and praised his side for taking advantage. "The player was shocked and didn't protest," he said. - REUTERS