BARCELONA (Reuters) - A red hot Luis Suarez scored four goals and contributed three assists as Barcelona’s stuttering La Liga title charge sparked back to life with a spectacular 8-0 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday.
Three successive defeats had put the brakes on Barcelona’s title pursuit but Suarez’s goal burst ended that losing run, while their closest challengers Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid made sure they stayed in the hunt with victories over Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal respectively.
Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Villarreal came at a cost though as Cristiano Ronaldo was seen limping off the pitch clutching his thigh though Real manager Zinedine Zidane later sought to play down the seriousness of the injury.
“He felt something just at the end, I can’t tell you anything at the moment but its more that he had a scare than that something serious happened,” he said.
“I’m more relaxed now than when he left the pitch. He had a scare and that’s why he left the pitch, he wanted to know what happened. In the end it was just a scare.”
Atletico secured a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao thanks to a first half header from Fernando Torres but they too suffered an injury setback with defender Diego Godin forced off in the ninth minute with a suspected hamstring injury.
Barca lead Atletico due to their superior head-to-head record, with both teams on 79 points with four games remaining. Third-placed Real Madrid are a point adrift.
Uruguayan Suarez was unstoppable on Wednesday as he took his goal tally to 49 in all competitions. He gave Barca a two-goal cushion at the break by scoring in the 11th and 24th minutes.
He then provided the cross for Ivan Rakitic to grabthe third in the 48th. Suarez completed his hat-trick five minutes later and netted his fourth in the 64th. Lionel Messi, Marc Bartra and Neymar rounded off the scoring late on.
Barca headed to Riazor without influential defender Gerard Pique in search of a first win in five league games.
Suarez put them on their way by volleying home Rakitic’s corner from inside the six yard box, then added the second with a first time finish with the help of a stylish tee up from Messi.
The former Liverpool striker laid on the cross for Rakitic to score on the half volley shortly after the break, and completed his treble thanks to another assist from Messi.
Suarez’s fourth goal was scrappier, following his shot in on the rebound after being denied by Deportivo goalkeeper Manu.
He then set up Messi to tap in from inside the box in the 73rd minute.
Barca coach Luis Enrique praised his team’s efficiency in front of goal but said the performance was not any better than in the 2-1 defeat to Valencia last Sunday.
“This time we had infinite solutions and we moved the ball around midfield really well, but I insist that we did the same against Valencia and look at the result,” he said.
“We have a marvellous challenge in front of us and we are better prepared for it after this spectacular result.”
Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid the lead against Villarreal in the 41st minute by pouncing on an error by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and Lucas Vazquez made it 2-0 in the 69th before Luka Modric completed the scoring in the 75th.
Torres scored for the fifth consecutive game in all competitions to give Atletico a fourth straight league win, heading in Antoine Griezmann’s chipped cross on 38 minutes.
Elsewhere, Sporting Gijon came from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 and climb out of the relegation zone, while fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano were denied victory at Malaga due to Federico Ricca’s injury time equaliser.
Valencia thrashed Eibar 4-0 to earn a third consecutive league win which takes them eighth, on 43 points.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar