Barca thrash Las Palmas 5-0, Atletico edge Betis
- Rampant Barca move within two points of Real Madrid
- Suarez and Messi on scoresheet at the Nou Camp
- Fourth-placed Atletico beat visiting Betis 1-0
- Real Madrid face third-placed Sevilla on Sunday
MADRID: Barcelona's Luis Suarez scored twice and Lionel Messi was also on target as they thrashed Las Palmas 5-0 with a ruthless second-half display at the Nou Camp on Saturday to provisionally go second and cut the gap with Real Madrid to two points.
Uruguay international Suarez scored his 101st Barca goal by stroking in Andre Gomes' cutback in the 15th minute as the Portuguese midfielder got his first assist since his 35 million euro ($37.24 million) move from Valencia last summer.
Messi scored for the seventh straight competitive game by pouncing on a loose ball in the 52nd after Rafinha's shot was parried by goalkeeper Javi Varas, while Suarez curled in a pass by Rafinha for his second and Barca's third in the 57th.
Suarez spurned the chance to seal a hat-trick a minute later but Arda Turan pounced after Varas saved again to score the fourth, while out-of-favour right back Aleix Vidal netted his first goal for the club in the 80th minute.
Barca are second in the standings, two points behind Real Madrid, who have played two games fewer and face third-placed Sevilla on Sunday. Atletico Madrid are fourth on 34 points, two behind Sevilla, after beating Real Betis 1-0 in a poor game.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique had rotated his side after Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the King's Cup, resting Neymar, Gerard Pique, captain Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto, but still watched his side dominate Las Palmas.
"I'm most happy with how we played without the ball. It was our best display of the season in that aspect and one of the best since I've been here. That was how we prevented Las Palmas creating problems for us," said Luis Enrique.
"Somehow we didn't kill off the game in the first half but we were much better in the second. The entire team's defensive work was enormous."
Barca defender Javier Mascherano hoped the resounding win, as well as the hard-fought victory over Athletic in the cup, would be the start of a long winning streak for his team.
"I hope we can feel emboldened by these wins and go on a run that lasts a long time," said the Argentine.
"We have to work hard to win every game, we can't leave anything to chance or relax. We need to make a strong start in every game, make the fewest errors possible and become stronger."
Atletico earned a third consecutive league win by beating Real Betis 1-0 at Vicente Calderon with a goal by Nicolas Gaitan, who stuck out a foot to divert a deflected cross into the net at the near post in the ninth minute.
"It was an important win which we had to work hard for. We expected Betis to sit back in their area and make it hard for us to get through, but we managed to have a really good spell for 20 minutes," said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
"It's not easy to keep competing as we have done and I'm delighted we've won three games in a row when we've struggled for consistency at times this season."