Madrid and Barcelona stay neck and neck after big La Liga wins

By Rik Sharma
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Football Soccer- Spanish La Liga Santander - Barcelona v Osasuna

Football Soccer- Spanish La Liga Santander - Barcelona v Osasuna - Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona, Spain - 26/04/17 Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates a goal. REUTERS/Albert Gea

By Rik Sharma

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 6-2 to stay level with Barcelona at the top of La Liga on Wednesday after the Catalans crushed Osasuna 7-1, condemning the minnows to relegation.

Lionel Messi, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer scored twice each and Javier Mascherano netted his first ever goal for the club from the penalty spot as the Catalans built on their Clasico victory on Sunday.

But Madrid showed they will not be easily toppled.

Zinedine Zidane made nine changes for the trip to the Riazor but Madrid’s reserves made light work of Depor, with Isco running the show and scoring, along with James Rodriguez, who hit a brace, Alvaro Morata, Lucas Vazquez and substitute Casemiro.

Madrid have 78 points from 33 games, while Barcelona have the same tally from one game more.

Osasuna, rooted in 20th place, were relegated after 17th-placed Leganes beat Las Palmas 3-0 to move 12 points clear of the bottom club, an insurmountable total with four games to go because of their inferior head-to-head record.

Petar Vasiljevic, their coach, said: “We had to win. We have suffered a lot since January. We’ve lacked both points and luck, and when that’s the case it’s hard to turn things around.”

Messi opened the scoring with a solo dribble, capped with a neat chip over goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, before Gomes volleyed home Ivan Rakitic’s cross.

Roberto Torres whipped in a free kick just after halftime to drag his team back into the match, but Barcelona then ran riot, seeing out the game with a flurry of goals that left the visitors marooned at the bottom of the table.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said: “I think it was a complete performance. When they got back to 2-1, which was the worst moment because they’re back in the game and you never know (what might happen), we were able to put our foot on the accelerator and close the game out.

“The way we played, we deserved to win by a large margin.”

Madrid deserved much the same and racked up a big win over Depor, dominating from the start.

It took Alvaro Morata just 52 seconds to find the net after being played in by Isco, before James Rodriguez slammed home the second from a Lucas Vazquez cross.

Florin Andone scored from close range, stabbing home Gael Kakuta’s cross-shot in the 35th minute to give his side a glimmer of hope, but nine minutes later Vazquez scored Madrid's third.

Rodriguez and Isco struck before Joselu’s header gave Depor fans some late cheer, but Casemiro had the last word, restoring Madrid’s four-goal lead in the 87th minute.

(Editing by Toby Davis, Neville Dalton)