Lionel Messi scored twice and Luis Suarez struck his first La Liga goal as Barcelona crushed struggling Cordoba 5-0 yesterday to finish the year a point behind Real Madrid at the top of the table.
In-form Pedro put Barca ahead after just 71 seconds, the second quickest in La Liga this season, with a clinical finish from a ball over the top of the defence by Ivan Rakitic.
The signs were ominous for Cordoba as they found themselves encamped in their own half, although Barca did not add to their lead until the start of the second half through Suarez.
The Uruguayan returned from a four-month ban for biting at the end of October and claimed his first goal in La Liga when he slotted the ball home from a Pedro pass. With the Cordoba players’ heads going down, Gerard Pique nodded in Barca’s third and then Messi fired in a late double.
Xavi came on as a second-half substitute in his 65th match for Barca, equalling the record of Real’s Raul for the number of games for a single club in Spanish football.
Barca have moved on to the shoulders of Real, who were playing the Club World Cup final against San Lorenzo in Morocco last night, and have played a game less than their arch-rivals.
In Germany, Borussia Dortmund completed their spectacular implosion this season, losing 2-1 at struggling Werder Bremen, their 10th defeat in 17 league games, sending them into the winter break in 17th place, just a point off the bottom.
Talented teenager Davie Selke scored Werder’s first goal in the third minute and last season’s Bundesliga runners-up never recovered, their leaking defence and lack of attacking ideas proving costly.
Werder hit them on the break to go 2-0 ahead, with Selke charging down the right wing past two Dortmund players to deliver a cross for Fin Bartels to score after 60 minutes. Mats Hummels’ diving header in the 69th gave the visitors hope and Shinji Kagawa should have done better when he fired over the bar from close range as Dortmund pressed for an equaliser.
The result left Dortmund, champions in 2011 and 2012, on 15 points, two behind VfB Stuttgart and Werder, who are in the relegation play-off spot. Freiburg, last on 14, could send Dortmund bottom if they beat Hanover today.
“Any criticism that will be unloaded on us now is completely justified,” said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, who led them to the 2013 Champions League final.
“It was a reflection of our season so far. We did not do it well in the first half. The good news today is that the year is over,” he said.
Fellow Champions League club Bayer Leverkusen climbed to third thanks to an 83rd-minute equaliser from German international Karim Bellarabi, which rescued a 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Borussia Mönchengladbach dropped to fourth, a point behind, after losing 2-1 against the in-form Augsburg, who joined them on 27 points.
Leaders Bayern Munich ended the year with a 2-1 victory at Mainz 05 on Friday thanks to a 90th-minute goal from Arjen Robben.
Schalke 04 forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has signed a new two-year contract that will keep him at the Bundesliga club until 2017.
The 31-year-old Dutch international, who joined Schalke from Real Madrid in 2010, is the club’s second best scorer since the Bundesliga started in 1963, with 101 goals in 161 matches in all competitions, including 66 in 114 league games.