Luis Suarez scored his eighth and ninth league goals of the season in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Deportivo, and he might have had a hat-trick if only La Liga had goal-line technology.
His ‘rabona’ shot just before half-time looked to have crossed the line but was pushed out by goalkeeper Ruben Martinez and without help from ‘Hawkeye’ the match officials gave the benefit of the doubt to the defending team.
It made no difference to the result as Barcelona moved 11 points clear of Real Madrid having played a game more. Suarez got a brace as did Paulinho and Lionel Messi missed a penalty.
Madrid and Barcelona face each other next Saturday – one side recently crowned Club World Cup champions and the other unstoppable at the top of the table.
Barcelona could have been ahead inside three minutes when Suarez went through on goal but chose to play in Andres Iniesta. He also went for the pass but Messi fired over.
On five minutes the ball did hit the back of the net but Paco Alcacer was offside when he received Messi’s pass before setting up Suarez to score.
Messi then had a low shot saved by Ruben Martinez after a fine run and cross from Jordi Alba.
There was no Sergio Busquets for Barcelona because he was a yellow card away from missing the next match. One man who will now miss that game against Real Madrid is Paco Alcacer. He hobbled off on 20 minutes and it was Aleix Vidal who got the nod ahead of Denis Suarez to replace him.
The change did not knock Messi out of his stride and he went close again forcing a fine save from Martinez. The keeper was in good form. He next saved from Vidal after he had volleyed Suarez’s clever cross goalwards. And again he saved from Messi conceding a corner at his near post.
Deportivo were being rocked back and forth and it was starting to look like just a matter of time before they toppled over. The crash came on 29 minutes through Suarez.
He was a long way offside when Iniesta’s flighted pass found Messi who was not. Suarez stepped back onside and so when Messi unselfishly squared the ball to him he finished to make it 1-0.
He almost paid the debt back on 37 minutes when he played in Messi and the Argentine smashed his shot on to the crossbar. It was the 22nd time this season Barcelona had hit the frame of the goal.
Moments later Messi made it 23 shots on to the post but this time when the ball came back out Paulinho was on hand to steer the rebound in to make it 2-0. The former Tottenham man now has more goals from midfield than anyone else in La Liga.
Just before half-time Suarez was convinced he had the third goal but with no bleep on the referee’s watch – La Liga have no plans to introduce the system – he had to wait until the start of the second half for his second goal.
It came when Sergio Roberto delivered a brilliant cross from the right and he applied a crisp low finish.
By this point Deportivo were thinking about their next game against local rivals Celta Vigo. They had struggled to test Marc Andre ter Stegen with a defence well-marshalled by Thomas Vermaelen snuffing out a forward line led by another former Arsenal player Lucas Perez.
Barcelona should have been four up when Suarez went through on goal but Ruben Martinez won the duel and he was brilliant again on 70 minutes when Suarez won a penalty but the Deportivo keeper palmed Messi’s shot away with his right hand.
Barcelona were not to be denied their fourth goal however. Messi hit the post again and for the second time on the night Paulinho followed it in to score. Suarez hit the post before full-time to make it 25 shots to the frame of the goal – that’s as many goals as Atletico Madrid have managed.
Paulinho has six goals for the season and looks to have been a clever buy. The only thing missing for Barcelona was a Messi goal. We will find out on Saturday if that dark cloud was more of a bad omen for Real Madrid.