Neymar hat-trick keeps Spanish title race alive up to last week of season
Madrid, May 15 (IANS) Neymar scored a hat-trick for FC Barcelona as the La Liga leaders won 4-1 in Las Palmas to ensure that the race for the title will go into the last weekend of the football season.
Barca remain level on points with Real Madrid, but Madrid’s 4-1 win at home to Sevilla means that if they take a point from their visit to Celta Vigo on Wednesday they will go to the top of the table and be favorites to be crowned champions next Sunday, reports Xinhua news agency.
Barcelona had an early scare when Lucas Digne was lucky not to be shown a red card for bringing down Jese Rodriguez when Las Palmas looked to be clean through on goal, but goals from Neymar and Luis Suarez in the 25th and 27th minutes put Barca in the driver’s seat.
Pedro Bigas gave Las Palmas hope in the 63rd minute, but Neymar’s second of the game just four minutes later made it 3-1 and his hat-trick with just under 20 minutes remaining, sealed the win.
Real Madrid also fulfilled their part of the bargain with a 4-1 win at home to Sevilla. Nacho Fernandez opened the scoring with a quickly-taken free kick but Sevilla fought back and were unlucky to see Stefan Jovetic twice send shots against the woodwork.
Cristiano Ronaldo doubled Madrid’s lead midway through the first half, but Jovetic then gave Sevilla (and Barca) hope four minutes after the break.
The game was in the balance for a while before Ronaldo netted his second in the 78th minute and Tony Kroos rounded off the victory with six minutes remaining.
Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 away to Betis to assure third place and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League, while Sevilla are assured of finishing fourth after fifth-placed Villarreal were held 0-0 at home to Deportivo la Coruna.
Athletic Club Bilbao were unable to capitalise on Villarreal’s slip up to assure qualification for next season’s Europa League as they were held 1-1 at home to Leganes.
Aritz Aduriz opened the scoring for the home side who wasted chances to assure all three points and Alexander Szymanowski scored the goal that assured Leganes’ top-flight survival for next season.
Leganes’ draw and the point claimed by Deportivo La Coruna in Villarreal means that Sporting Gijon are relegated to the second division despite a 1-0 win away to Eibar thanks to a first half goal from Burgui. Sporting join Osasuna and Granada as the third side to drop out of the top-flight.
Real Sociedad and Malaga draw 2-2 in San Sebastian in a result which keeps Real Sociedad’s Europa League hopes alive with a Xabi Prieto penalty and a late header from Jon Bautista cancelling out Luis Hernandez and Recio’s goals from the visitors.
Finally there were three games with nothing at stake as Valencia won 1-0 away to Espanyol, Osasuna defeated Granada 2-0 and Alaves won 3-1 at home to Celta Vigo.