Barcelona, Real Madrid roll in La Liga action

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Barcelona extended its lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points, while Real Madrid climbed into third as both Spanish giants won in convincing fashion on Sunday.

Lionel Messi found the scoresheet as Barcelona topped Girona 2-0 at Estadi Montilivi. Nelson Semedo grabbed his first goal in a Barcelona shirt just nine minutes in as a sloppy goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall right to the 25-year-old’s feet and he ripped it home low inside the right post.

Girona managed to match Barcelona on the shot count and had numerous chances to score, including one by Pedro Alcala soon after Semedo’s goal, and another from Pere Pons just before halftime that required a goal-line clearance from Gerard Pique. In the 51st minute, Girona fell a man down when Bernardo Espinosa picked up a second yellow card for hacking down Luis Suarez, and that made it tough for the hosts to find a way back in.

Barcelona grabbed its second goal when Lionel Messi produced a spectacular chip over Bono in the 68th minute and that was all she wrote for Barcelona. Still, despite the win, under-fire attacker Philippe Coutinho continued his poor form, creating just one chance and not influencing the game as the fans expect him to in Ousmane Dembele’s absence.

Karim Benzema was the star for Real Madrid, scoring a pair as they won 4-2 over Espanyol on the road. Benzema struck first just four minutes in, collecting a rebound from a saved Luka Modric shot and redirecting it back into the net past a sprawled-out Diego Lopez. Sergio Ramos picked up Real Madrid’s second in the 15th minute with a powerful header, and Benzema restored the 2-goal lead in the 67th minute with a right-footed effort across the face of goal and into the bottom-right corner.

Gareth Bale gave Real Madrid a 4-1 lead, and Espanyol wouldn’t find its second consolation goal until late after Madrid had fallen a man down on a straight red card to Raphael Varane for a controversial last-man foul that may be rescinded later, as replays showed Varane never touched substitute Pablo Piatti who spilled to the turf after tripping himself just outside the box on a breakaway.

Madrid had troubles with referee Jesus Gil all day, with Ramos pushing his luck after a 26th minute yellow card, right in the referee’s face to argue his case. Overall, seven yellow cards and the one red were handed out in the match, with Madrid picking up five of those eight.