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Las Palmas 1 Barcelona 2: Suarez and Neymar seal points for below-par Barca

Luis Suarez scored for the 15th time in his past nine appearances but Liga leaders Barcelona were made to work for a 2-1 victory at Las Palmas.

Suarez, who now boasts a phenomenal tally of 41 goals in 37 games for the Spanish, European and world champions, saw his early opener cancelled out by Willian Jose in the 10th minute.

Third-bottom Las Palmas played with a freedom and confidence not usually associated with a team that has one win in eight league games since the turn of the year.

Barcelona rested Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Arsenal and lacked their usual assurance either side of Neymar restoring their advantage in the 39th minute, despite Suarez appearing to be offside during the build-up.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique can reflect on a job well done for his treble-chasing side, and a nine-point advantage at the Liga summit ahead of Atletico Madrid’s Sunday encounter with Villarreal.

Las Palmas, perhaps encouraged by Pique’s absence from the Barcelona defence, started with plenty of ambition as Jonathan Viera flashed a 30-yard free-kick wide and Willian Jose had a shot deflected behind.

But Barca only needed six minutes to showcase their ruthless attacking prowess – Andres Iniesta picking Las Palmas apart with a delightful throughball and Suarez matched Jordi Alba’s first-time cross with an impeccable finish.

Alba undid a considerable measure of his good work four minutes later by playing Willian Jose onside to slot home, after a deft backheel by Viera that any of Barca’s feted front three would have been proud to produce.

Momo blazed over on the counter-attack for Quique Setien’s men, who were indebted to Javi Varas when the goalkeeper sprung to his left to keep out Iniesta’s drive from Arda Turan’s cutback.

A boisterous home crowd held their breath when an unattended Suarez headed wide on the end of Lionel Messi’s 28th-minute free-kick, and sympathy was in order for Varas when Barca led six minutes before the break.

Neymar slotted into an unguarded net on the rebound from a phenomenal reaction save off Messi, while Suarez should arguably have been pulled up before skipping around a prone Pedro Bigas to create the chance.

Still, Las Palmas were not discouraged and Roque Mesa flashed wide from the edge of the area following a surging run to conclude a thrilling half.

In response to his team lacking their customary control of central areas, Luis Enrique sent on Ivan Rakitic for Turan.

Varas impressed once more, thwarting Suarez from close quarters – the Uruguay star showing clear frustration by forcefully kicking the post.

That let-off inspired Las Palmas to another promising period of play, during which time they pushed Barcelona back and Willian Jose fired into the side-netting after Claudio Bravo parried Viera’s low 60th-minute effort. 

Thomas Vermaelen’s introduction in place of midfielder Sergi Roberto showed Barcelona’s need to take the sting out of an unexpectedly tricky assignment, and lively Las Palmas substitute Sergio Araujo twice came close to snatching a point.
The former Barcelona B player pulled agonisingly wide and then failed to slide in Roque’s chipped pass as the champions unconvincingly hung on.

Key Opta stats: 

– Las Palmas haven’t beaten Barcelona in a La Liga game since 1986 (3-0 at the Insular), meeting Barca 10 times in the top flight since then (D4 L6).
– Lionel Messi has failed to score against just four La Liga sides he has faced (Las Palmas, Real Murcia, Cadiz and Xerez).
– Las Palmas are the first side to have 10 shots against Barcelona in the first half of a La Liga game since Real Madrid in October 2014.
– Luis Suarez is La Liga’s joint-top scorer in 2016 (10 goals) and has assisted more goals than any other player since the start of 2016 (seven).
– Three of Jordi Alba’s last four assists have been for Luis Suarez. 

Sat 20 Feb, 2016
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