La Liga: Torres strikes to keep Atleti in title hunt

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Delight: Fernando Torres.

Fernando Torres scored in consecutive matches for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years as Atletico Madrid edged past Getafe 1-0 to leapfrog Real Madrid into second place in La Liga.

Torres has struggled to reproduce his best form since returning to his first club 13 months ago, but on Sunday evening he gave Atleti fans a reminder of the good old days with an instinctive finish at the back post.

With less than two minutes gone, the 31-year-old sprinted free from his marker at the back post and tapped the ball into the home net from Yannick Carrasco’s cross despite pressure from Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Sevilla boosted their chances of European qualification as they stretched their unbeaten run to 12 matches with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Las Palmas at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Unai Emery’s team endured a frustrating opening hour against Las Palmas, but they eventually turned on the style and ran out winners thanks to goals from Kevin Gameiro and Ever Banega.

Real Sociedad made it eight goals in their last two matches as a 3-0 win at home to Granada moved them into the top 10 in the Primera Division.

Teenage midfielder Mikel Oyarzabal bagged a brace, with Cristian Jonathas also on the scoresheet in a comfortable victory against a Granada side who stay second from bottom.

Eibar boosted their hopes of finishing in the European places after beating struggling Levante 2-0. Borja Baston continued his rich goalscoring form by putting the hosts ahead after 37 minutes, and an own goal by Tono Garcia after the break sealed the win for the Basques.

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Barcelona put gloss on tough win over Celta Vigo

Andy West 15/02/2016
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Celebrations: Messi and Suarez.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. After losing twice against Celta Vigo in the last 18 months, Barcelona defeated their bogey team as a Luis Suarez hat-trick, along with strikes from Lionel Messi, Ivan Rakitic and Neymar, overcame John Guidetti’s penalty.

And it was certainly a case of perseverance, as the hosts were forced to work much harder than the scoreline suggests by a spirited Celta team who frustrated the hosts until their quality finally shone through with a collection of brilliant goals.

Messi’s wondrous free-kick was a rare effort on target for the hosts during an opening period which later saw Guidetti level from the spot. And although Suarez restored the advantage soon after the break, Celta were always menacing and the points never looked safe until Suarez netted his second of the night inside the final 15 minutes.

But the game will be most remembered for the fourth and an astonishing show of impudence which is sure to be long discussed. Messi won a penalty and took it, but instead of shooting he rolled a short square pass for the onrushing Suarez to slide home, a la Johan Cruyff.

Then the scoring was completed by Rakitic and Neymar as Barca and their jubiliant fans finished the evening in high spirits – but it hadn’t always been that easy.

Celta played with an aggressive man-marking defensive scheme which immediately caused problems for Barca’s attacking stars, and the visitors created the first real chance when Pablo Hernandez dragged a snapshot wide.

Messi curled a free-kick just wide and Neymar forced a good reflex save from Sergio Alvarez, but Celta continued to threaten and needed a save from Claudio Bravo to deny Carles Planas’ stretching effort.

Then came the opener as Suarez was fouled 25 yards from goal and Messi superbly arrowed a vicious strike into the top-right corner, leaving Alvarez grasping at air.

Any thoughts that Barca would proceed to win easily were dispelled when Celta levelled as Guidetti outmuscled Jordi Alba and was brought down by the left back. Referee Alejandro Hernandez pointed to the spot and the Swede buried his spot-kick into the left corner.

The second half began more promisingly as Neymar escaped superbly down the left and pulled it back for Suarez, whose sidefooted strike struck the right upright.

Barca were exerting sustained pressure for the first time and Alvarez did well to repel a fierce shot from Andres Iniesta before the lead was regained, with Messi conjuring a magical pass over the Celta defence into the path of Suarez who finished smartly on the half-volley.

Guidetti was always a handful and Celta nearly levelled again when he teed up Daniel Wass for a strike which flew over the top. But Barca secured the points thanks to another piece of Messi brilliance, with the Argentine finding Neymar who classily rounded Alvarez and attempted a narrow-angled shot which was probably going in anyway until Suarez made sure from point-blank range.

Then came the penalty routine for Suarez’s treble, before the Uruguayan turned provider for two more fine goals as Rakitic and Neymar both ran onto passes from Suarez to chip the stranded Alvarez.

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Cristiano Ronaldo double keeps pressure on Barcelona

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Another win: Real Madrid celebrate.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice as Real Madrid overcame a stiff test from Athletic Bilbao to move within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

Ronaldo’s early opener was cancelled out by Javi Eraso before a two-goal burst just before half-time from James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos put Madrid in control.

Real were reduced to 10 men late on as Raphael Varane saw a red card, but Ronaldo made sure of the points before Gorka Elustondo grabbed a consolation in stoppage time.

Barca have two games in hand on Madrid and face Celta Vigo in the first of those on Sunday.

Ronaldo had been much criticised for his poor performance as Madrid struggled past Granada last weekend, but was sharp from the off back on home soil as he turned inside from Karim Benzema’s pass and smashed home his 31st goal of the season.

However, Athletic reacted well to going behind in a hugely entertaining first-half with chances flowing at either end.

The visitors were level on 10 minutes when Varane’s errant backpass was only parried by Keylor Navas into the path of Eraso to slot home.

Navas then had to produce a brilliant save to parry Aritz Aduriz’s powerful downward header.

At the other end, Gorka Iraizoz also made a great save to deny Danilo.

And Aduriz came close again on the half hour when his deflected shot came back off the crossbar.

However, the Basques were made to pay for their profligacy as Madrid showed their firepower with two goals in eight minutes before half-time.

Rodriguez regained the lead with a trademark drive into the bottom corner from outside the box for just his fifth goal of the season.

Kroos then put the game beyond Athletic as he received Ronaldo’s pass just inside the area and saw his shot flick off Aymeric Laporte on its way past Iraizoz.

Ronaldo came close to extending the lead when he struck the post from range just after the break.

Navas was also called on to make another fine save to smother Aduriz’s effort on the edge of the area after a rare wayward pass from Kroos.

Madrid had to see out the final seven minutes with 10 men as Varane saw a second yellow card for leading with his elbow in an aerial clash with Aduriz.

Yet, even with a man less, Ronaldo got his second of the afternoon to move ahead of Luis Suarez as La Liga’s top goalscorer by controlling Lucas Vazquez’s cross before firing home from close range.

Athletic did eventually get the second goal their performance deserved in stoppage time when Elustondo rounded off the scoring from Oscar de Marcos’s cross.

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