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Suarez, Oblak help Atletico maintain 4-point lead

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Madrid, March 22 (IANS) Luis Suarez’s 500th goal and a late penalty save from Jan Oblak were enough for Atletico Madrid to maintain their four-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Suarez’s near-post header nine minutes into the second half was enough to give Atletico a 1-0 win at home to struggling Alaves on Sunday, and although Atletico kept the ball well to deny Alaves any clear chances, a flailing arm from Stefan Savic gifted the visitors a penalty six minutes from time.

Joselu hit his penalty hard, but Oblak guessed correctly to make a vital save to take his side one step closer to the title.

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FC Barcelona responded to the pressure in brilliant style as they demolished Real Sociedad in San Sebastian on a special day for Lionel Messi, who set a new record of 768 appearances for the club and celebrated with two more goals.

Former Real Sociedad player Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring from close range after Alex Remiro had saved from Ousmane Dembele and Sergino Dest doubled Barca’s lead after a pass from Messi.

Dest doubled his tally for the night seven minutes after the break after a fine run from Jordi Alba to set him up, and Messi then celebrated his record by scoring Barca’s fourth of the night just three minutes later.

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Ousmane Dembele netted a fifth in the 71st minute and although Igor Barrenetxea pulled a goal back for the home side, there was still time for Messi to add a sixth in the 89th minute to seal an emphatic 6-1 win.

Karim Benzema continued his rich vein of form with two first-half goals as Real Madrid kept themselves in the title race on Saturday. The Frenchman scored in the 20th and 30th minutes, before Santi Mina got Celta back into things five minutes before half-time.

Iago Aspas hit the post for Celta with seven minutes left to play but Marco Asensio assured Real Madrid’s win deep into injury-time.

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Sevilla keeper Bono scored a dramatic goal after going forward for a last minute corner to salvage a 1-1 draw away to Real Valladolid, just when it looked as if Fabio Orellana’s 44th minute penalty would give Valladolid a vital win.

Villarreal look to have got their league campaign back on track thanks to a 2-1 win at home to Cadiz.

Spain international striker Gerard Moreno scored an early penalty and then set up Carlos Bacca for Villarreal’s second in the 68th minute.

Alex Fernandez fired home from close range two minutes later to get Cadiz back into the game, which ended with Moreno having to leave the game with a muscle injury that could cause Spain coach Luis Enrique a problem in the coming days.

Valencia made it four consecutive home wins as they took advantage of Granada’s tired legs with a 2-1 triumph in the Mestalla stadium thanks to a fourth-minute goal from Daniel Wass and a 66th minute strike from Alex Blanco, with Roberto Soldado netting a 90th minute consolation for the visitors.

Athletic Bilbao and Eibar drew 1-1 on Saturday in a result which does little to help Athletic’s European ambitions and keeps Eibar in the bottom three.

Yuri Berchiche’s spectacular volley put Athletic ahead in the ninth minute, but Kike Garcia equalized eight minutes later after a dreadful error from Unai Lopez.

Elche can thank goalkeeper Edgar Badir for saving a vital point from their visit to Getafe after he saved an 84th minute penalty from Angel Rodriguez in a 1-1 draw.

Pere Milla put Elche ahead in the 20th minute, with Enes Unal leveling from Getafe after good work from Takefusa Kubo.

Huesca managed 15 shots in their home game against Osasuna, but the bottom side failed to make any of them count in a tense 0-0 draw.

On Friday night, Real Betis strengthened their argument for a place in Europe with a 2-0 win at home to Levante, with goals from the impressive Nabil Fekir and Juanmi.

–IANS

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