Image: Barcelona v Real Betis – Spanish Liga BBVA -Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – 30/12/15 Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (L) and Betis’ German Pezzella in action REUTERS/Stringer
By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Luis Suarez struck twice and Lionel Messi scored on his 500th appearance for Barcelona who set a new Spanish record of goals in a calendar year with a 4-0 win over Real Betis that lifted them top of La Liga on Wednesday.
Late strikes from Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann gave Atletico a 2-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano while Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty and missed another as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1.
Messi slid home his 425th goal for Barca after 34 minutes to add to their lead which came from a Heiko Westermann own-goal following a controversial penalty.
Messi was harshly judged to have been fouled by keeper Antonio Adan and although Neymar slipped and hit the crossbar with his spot-kick, Westermann put the rebound into the back of his own net.
Luis Suarez pounced twice in the second half to take Barca’s goal tally to 180 this year, two more than the previous Spanish record set by Real Madrid in 2014.
Atletico substitute Correa fired home from a Thomas Partey pass after 88 minutes and Griezmann sealed the victory over Rayo.
“It was a tough battle and we managed to break through at the end,” Correa told reporters.
“He (coach Diego Simeone) just told me to go on and help the team to win and luckily we did.”
Ronaldo blazed a spot-kick over the bar after 24 minutes but slotted home another three minutes before the break to put Real ahead.
Sociedad substitute Bruma equalised for the visitors after 49 minutes before Ronaldo struck a volley through a crowded penalty area into the net midway through the second half.
Lucas Vazquez sealed the win with a goal after 87 minutes that will ease the pressure on coach Rafa Benitez.
“Sometimes you play better or worse but what is important is to get the three points,” Vazquez told reporters.
“The public has the right to applaud or whistle. We have to keep working on these lines and win games.”
Barcelona and Atletico have 38 points, with the Catalan side having played a game fewer, two more than third-placed Real.
Atletico were missing regular central midfielders Gabi Fernandez and Tiago Mendes through suspension and injury while Filipe Luis was also banned.
Yannick Carrasco posed the main attacking threat and went close with a couple of chances but generally there was little invention.
It was heading towards a stalemate when Correa showed his predatory instincts inside the area and struck the ball into the roof of the net.
Rayo were stunned and Griezmann took advantage to finish clinically from a Martinez pass.
Real won a penalty after a slight push from fullback Yuri on Karim Benzema but Ronaldo missed a penalty for the 15th time in his career with a poor effort that went over the crossbar.
He made no mistake with a second spot-kick, though, tucking the ball into the right corner after Gareth Bale’s cross was handled by Yuri.
Sociedad lost Sergio Canales with suspected knee ligament damage but came out stronger in the second half and Bruma, given too much space on the right of the area, curled a shot into the top corner.
Just as the game was turning Sociedad’s way and the fans were starting to get on the back of the Real players, Ronaldo volleyed in from a corner for his 57th goal of the year and Vazquez struck late from another Bale cross.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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