League leader Barcelona beats Cadiz 2-0 after turbulent week
MADRID (AP) — Barcelona left its problems off the field after a turbulent week to beat Cadiz 2-0 on Sunday and extended its winning streak and lead over Real Madrid in the Spanish league.
Sergi Roberto and Robert Lewandowski scored a goal each late in the first half to give Barcelona its seventh straight league win and get its lead over second-place Madrid back to eight points.
Madrid had cut the gap to five points with a 2-0 win at Osasuna on Saturday.
Barcelona's home game at Camp Nou came after it became publicly known that a state prosecutor is probing Barcelona’s payment of millions of dollars over several years to a company that belonged to the vice president of the Spanish federation’s refereeing committee. Barcelona has been heavily criticized but denied any wrongdoing, saying it paid for reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.
On the field, Roberto opened the scoring in the 43rd with a shot from the middle of the area after Lewandowski’s header off a cross by Ferran Torres was cleared by a defender on the goal line.
Lewandowski added to the lead before halftime with a low shot from just inside the area for his league-leading 15th goal – and first overall after three scoreless matches in all competitions.
It was the 17th clean sheet for Barcelona in the league this season.
Cadiz, coming off two wins in its last three matches, thought it had opened the scoring in the 19th but the goal by Roger was disallowed for offside. The club from southern Spain dropped to 17th place, two points from the relegation zone.
Barcelona coach Xavi made some changes to the lineup ahead of next Thursday’s trip to England to face Manchester United in the Europa League. The teams drew 2-2 in Barcelona last week.
Antoine Griezmann made a great run from near the halfway line to score for Atletico Madrid in a 1-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao, allowing Diego Simeone’s team to strengthen its hold on the final Champions League place.
The goal saw Griezmann speeding past two defenders before entering the area and firing a low shot into the net in the 73rd minute, giving Atletico its fourth win in five league matches.
The victory left the team four points ahead of fifth-place Real Betis, which won 2-1 against Valladolid on Saturday. Atletico is two points behind third-place Real Sociedad, which drew 1-1 with Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Atletico is 10 points behind city rival Real Madrid and 18 points behind league leader Barcelona.
Bilbao, which was trying to win its third league game in a row, stayed in seventh place and missed a chance to move closer to the European places.
“It was a very important match,” Griezmann said. “We have to keep this going, keep getting the victories and the three points.”
It was Griezmann’s second goal in the last 17 matches with Atletico in all competitions.
“I was looking forward to scoring again,” Griezmann said. “These are streaks, and I hope I can keep this one going.”
Sevilla lost some momentum after being held to a 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano.
Suso scored in the 29th for 12th-place Sevilla, which was looking to win its third in a row in the league.
The result kept Sevilla unbeaten in seven straight league games at Rayo, which equalized with Florian Lejeune in the 65th.
Rayo, which has drawn two in a row, stayed in sixth place and missed a chance to move closer to the Champions League places.
Sergi Darder scored two minutes into stoppage time as 13th-place Espanyol defeated last-place Elche 1-0 to end a three-game winless streak and move further away from the relegation zone.
Elche won its first league match of the season two rounds ago, but has two consecutive defeats since then.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press