MADRID, December 21- Luis Suarez scored his first La Liga goal and Lionel Messi netted twice as Barcelona moved to within a point of leaders Real Madrid with a 5-0 thrashing of Cordoba in their final game of the year on Saturday.
The hosts got off to a flying start as Pedro Rodriguez, once again deputising for Neymar, opened the scoring with a smart finish from Ivan Rakitic’s wonderful through ball inside two minutes.
Barca then struggled to build on their lead for the rest of the first period, but Suarez capped another quick start to the second period when he poked home from close range to end a seven-game drought in the league since returning from a four-month ban for biting.
Gerard Pique headed in a third before Messi rounded off the scoring with two stunning finishes in the final 10 minutes.
“I was able to score and that helps relax me. I don’t know if we were affected, but the draw with Getafe last week annoyed us. We had to come here today and show that we’re in the fight for the Liga title,” Suarez said.
“Scoring is always important, but with the support of everyone we all knew that this happy moment would come.
“I’m a forward and I have to score goals, but I’m also helping the side to achieve its aims. For this I hadn’t got too obsessed with getting on the scoresheet. The most important thing was that the team won and we achieved that”.
Despite coach Luis Enrique claiming that Neymar had fully recovered from an ankle injury, the Brazilian watched on from the bench as Pedro was rewarded for his hat-trick in the 8-1 thrashing of Huesca in midweek and the Canary Islander continued his scoring streak in the first meaningful attack of the game.
Rakitic’s intelligent left-footed pass over the top was trapped by the Spain international before he lashed the ball into the roof of the net to register his sixth goal in as many games.
Andres Iniesta then shot straight at Juan Carlos before Suarez was inches away from making his mark with an acrobatic effort that flew into the side-netting.
– Fine reaction –
Nabil Ghilas and Fede Cartabia shot into the side-netting in Cordoba’s only two attacks of note in the first 45, and they could have been further behind at the break but for a fine reaction save from Carlos to turn Pique’s header from close range behind for a corner.
There was nothing the Cordoba ‘keeper could do seven minutes into the second period, however, when Messi, Iniesta and Pedro combined to hand Suarez a glorious chance to get up and running in La Liga and this time the Uruguayan made no mistake with a deft first touch before slotting under Carlos.
Rakitic nearly made it 3-0 moments later in spectacular fashion as he crashed a drive from 25 yards off the post.
The Croatian then made way for Xavi Hernandez 25 minutes from time and it was the veteran midfielder who provided a perfect cross for Pique to power home a header to make it 3-0.
Two minutes later Messi got his name in the scoresheet from another set-piece as Cordoba only partially cleared a corner from the right and the four-time World Player of the Year smashed the ball right-footed home off the underside of the bar from the edge of the box.
Messi added one final moment of magic in stoppage time when he spectacularly controlled a looping ball on the outside of his left foot before spinning to fire home with his right despite Carlos’s best efforts to keep it out.
Victory moves Barca six points clear of champions Atletico Madrid, who visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Real Madrid will end the year on top despite having played a game less than the Catalans as they take on San Lorenzo in the final of the Club World Cup later on Saturday.