- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Luis Suarez netted his first hat trick for Spanish league leader Barcelona to lead its 8-0 rout at last-place Cordoba on Saturday, while Cristiano Ronaldo also scored three to ensure Real Madrid stayed in the title chase.

Lionel Messi notched his 50th and 51st goals in all competitions to help Barcelona match its biggest away win in league history and seal Cordoba’s relegation.

Later, Ronaldo almost single-handedly dealt Sevilla its first loss at home in 35 consecutive games going back to February 2014 with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Barcelona leads Madrid by two points with three games left to decide which replaces Atletico Madrid as champion.

“Hope is the last thing you lose. We have to do what we are supposed to and win the last three games,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

Barcelona will take a run of 15 wins in 16 matches back to Camp Nou, where it faces former coach Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday. Madrid visits Juventus the day before in their final-four tie.

Messi surpassed the 50-goal mark in his 50th match of the season. Suarez, likewise, stayed in fine form with five goals in his last two matches, and 17 goals in his last 16 appearances, while Neymar earned and converted a penalty five minutes from time to extend his scoring run to four straight matches.

Elsewhere, Atletico was held to 0-0 at home by Athletic Bilbao as the soon-to-be-dethroned titleholder remained in third place at 11 points adrift.

Deportivo La Coruna was left in the relegation zone after drawing 1-1 at home with sixth-place Villarreal.

Cordoba resisted as long as Barcelona misfired. But once Messi unlocked its five-man defense with a lobbed pass for Ivan Rakitic to rifle into the top of the net, the hosts quickly collapsed.

Suarez got his first goal in first-half injury time, and Dani Alves crossed for Messi and Suarez to add two headed goals before Gerard Pique netted a header of his own.

Messi, Neymar and Suarez then polished off the demolition to equal Barcelona’s highest away wins at Almeria in 2010 and at Las Palmas in 1959.

“If we want to win the league, we have to take care of business, regardless of where we play or the situation of our opponents,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “Today we took care of business.”

Ronaldo’s three goals took his league-leading tally to 42, keeping the Ballon d’Or holder ahead of Messi with his 40 goals, as the two stars vie to finish the league as top scorer.

Sevilla held its own and traded scoring opportunities with Jose Antonio Reyes leading its attack until holding midfielder Gregorz Krychowiak smashed his face into the back of Sergio Ramos’ head, causing his nose to bleed profusely.

The Polish player went to the sideline to receive treatment in the 30th minute and when he returned 10 minutes later Madrid has winning by two goals.

Ronaldo scored them both against the undermanned defense, first heading home Francisco “Isco” Alarcon’s cross in the 36th before he acrobatically dove to stab in a ball flicked on by Javier Hernandez a minute later.

Back to full strength, Sevilla mustered a push before halftime that yielded a penalty for Carlos Bacca to convert in injury time after Ramos fouled Aleix Vidal.

Gareth Bale returned from a left-leg injury in the 66th and three minutes later sent in a cross to the far post that Ronaldo scored with a brilliant header to lift the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico from a tight angle.

Substitute Vicente Iborra slotted in a short pass from Vidal to boost Sevilla’s hopes of a comeback in the 79th, and Unai Emery’s team just missed the equalizer when Denis Suarez’s effort squirmed by the post with five to play.

Sevilla stayed in fifth place, level on points with Valencia in fourth as they contest the last Champions League berth.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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