Las Palmas 1 - 4 Barcelona LaLiga: goals, action, match report
Neymar struck a hat-trick at Las Palmas to keep Barça in the hunt for the La Liga title. Suárez also scored, while Bigas found the net for Setién's teamBarcelona vs Valencia: Copa del Rey semi-final 17/18
Las Palmas 1 - 4 Barcelona: match report
Neymar scored a hat-trick in Gran Canaria to keep Barcelona in the running as the La Liga title race enters its final week. As is so often the case in Spanish football, the focus is on two teams. Back on the Spanish mainland, Real Madrid also beat Sevilla by a scoreline of 4-1, to leave things in much the same position as they were before the matches kicked off on Sunday evening. Barcelona sit on top of the table due to their favourable head-to-head record with Madrid, but Zidane's side travel to Celta Vigo in midweek with a chance to regain the lead.
Barcelona eased themselves in to the driving seat with two quickfire goals from Neymar and Suárez, in the 25th and 27th minutes. Las Palmas temporarily gained a foothold in the game, as Pedro Bigas scored just after the hour mark. Yet two more goals from Neymar put the result beyond doubt in the sun-drenched Canary Islands.
Since manager Quique Setién announced in March that he will leave the club at the end of the season, Las Palmas have waned. To say they were 'on the beach' would be an understatement. They had moved to the beach, opened up a bar, and were serving piña coladas with miniature umbrellas and Mariachi music. A strong start to the season had afforded them such a luxury.
Luis Enrique received bad news just before kick off, as Javier Mascherano limped out of the warm-up with injury. Marlon, a 21-year-old defender on loan from Fluminense, took his place in an already below-strength back line.
Yet referee González González gave Barcelona a generous slice of good fortune after just six minutes. Lucas Digne, playing out of position at right-back, hauled down Jesé as the former-Real Madrid charged towards goal. Digne denied a clear goalscoring opportunity with a cynical foul, yet when the referee reached for his pocket, a yellow card emerged.
After 25 minutes, Barça built upon their good luck. Busquets found Iniesta with an elaborate flick, and the diminutive playmaker showed his continuing importance to this Barcelona side with a sumptuous pass in to the path of Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan barely broke his stride, before rolling the ball across the face of goal for Neymar to finish from close range.
The away side soon doubled their lead. Neymar turned provider for Suárez. The Brazilian split Las Palmas' defence with a curled pass from the left flank. Suárez' run was perfectly timed, and he dinked the ball over the onrushing Varas and in to the bottom corner.
The match gently undulated towards the half time break. With news coming through from the Bernabéu that Real Madrid were leading Sevilla 2-0, it seemed very much 'as you were' in the La Liga title race.
Yet Las Palmas awoke from their slumber as the second half got underway. The yellow-shirted players looked fresh, rejuvinated. When Pedro Bigas steamed forward from centre-half to apply the finishing touch to a counter-attack, it was thoroughly-deserved. Jesé Rodríguez said earlier this week that he would relish the chance to de-rail Barça's title charge. He buzzed around the pitch, a thorn in Barcelona's side.
The away side did not panic. They took a deep breath, and shifted up a gear. Neymar put them at ease four minutes later, nodding Rakitic's bouncing cross in to the bottom corner. Suárez threw himself towards the ball in an attempt to get a touch. He didn't, and luckily so, as he was standing in an offside position. Another four minutes passed before Barcelona scored his fourth, and Neymar his third. Jordi Alba careered up the left flank before rolling the ball inside to Neymar who, with the daintiest of touches, poked the ball beyond Javi Varas.
All eyes now turn to Galicia. On Wednesday Celta will host Real Madrid at Balaídos. Zinedine Zidane's side have control of the La Liga title race, but only just. Barça are clipping at their heels, waiting for a slip-up, waiting to pounce.