Barca grinds out victory in Eibar


MADRID — Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba were on target as Barcelona saw off Eibar 2-0 Saturday to continue its unbeaten record in La Liga and extend its lead at the top of the table.

Lionel Messi had a hand in both goals against an Eibar side which finished the match at Ipurua with 10 men after the second-half sending-off of Fabian Orellana.

It was not a comfortable afternoon for Ernesto Valverde's men on a rainy day in the Basque Country, and they had to wait until Alba's goal two minutes from the end to put the match to bed.

Still to lose 24 games into the league campaign, Barca is now 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, although the capital side can trim that lead when it hosts Athletic Bilbao Sunday.

Barcelona will now turn its thoughts to the Champions League last 16, first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge Tuesday, and Valverde will be hoping his squad suffered no ill effects from a testing afternoon.

Valverde sent out a strong team, choosing to start Andres Iniesta and leave Philippe Coutinho on the bench, despite the Brazilian being ineligible for the Champions League. Coutinho came on for Iniesta for the final half-hour.

Barca went ahead in the 16th minute, Messi's superb pass releasing Suarez, who rounded goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic to score.

But the visitors had a couple of let-offs in the first half, with Sergio Busquets lucky not to concede a penalty as he pulled back Kike Garcia in the box. Orellana then hit the bar with a fine strike from outside the area.

However, the Chilean was sent off midway through the second half, stupidly picking up a second yellow card for kicking the ball away.

Barca eventually took advantage of the extra man in the 88th minute. Messi, who hit the post in the first half, was denied by Dmitrovic, but the ball fell for Alba to score.

Earlier Saturday, Sevilla warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester United by winning 2-1 at Las Palmas, although it was aided by a controversial late offside call.

Goals from Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia had Sevilla in control in Gran Canaria, before Jonathan Calleri pulled one back for Las Palmas from the penalty spot.

And the islanders were denied a 93rd-minute equalizer when an extremely tight offside call went against them — Alejandro Galvez looked to be level with the last defender before putting the ball in the net. Las Palmas remains in the relegation zone.

Having experienced some indifferent form following the appointment of Italian Vincenzo Montella as coach at the end of December, Sevilla has now claimed back-to-back league victories since progressing to the Copa del Rey final, in which it will play Barcelona.

It is provisionally fifth in the table, three points behind Real Madrid in fourth but having played two games more. Zinedine Zidane's side is at Betis Sunday. — AFP