Suarez and Rakitic see Barca through Espanyol test to stay top

By Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona came through a testing local derby at Espanyol to win 3-0 and cling on to their slender lead at the top of La Liga thanks to two clinical finishes from Luis Suarez and a strike from Ivan Rakitic made by a vintage slalom run by Lionel Messi.

Suarez pounced on a disastrous backpass from Jose Manuel Jurado to break the deadlock in the 50th minute and Rakitic sealed the win in the 76th by side-footing home Messi's cutback after the Argentine had torn through the home defence.

Suarez, who had failed to score in his previous five games in all competitions, took advantage of another calamitous error by the otherwise impressive Espanyol backline and rifled in from close range in the 87th minute.

Barca were under pressure to win after Real Madrid had beaten Valencia to provisionally lead the standings earlier in the day, and the champions got an early fright when Jurado eased into their area but fired wide of the far post.

Espanyol's good organisation then went to waste when Jurado gifted the ball to Suarez, who knocked it past former Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez with an effortless flick of the outside of his right boot.

Barca top the standings on 81 points due to their superior head-to-head record over Real, who also have 81 and have a game in hand.

(Reporting by Richard Martin,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

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