Sports Desk, Sep 17 (EFE).- Robert Lewandowski had a brace Saturday to power Barcelona 3-0 over last-place Elche and vault the Catalan club to the top of LaLiga, a point ahead of defending champions Real Madrid.
Anything less than a win for the Blancos in Sunday’s Madrid derby with Atletico will see Barcelona go into the international break as the league leaders.
Athletic climbed to third place with a 3-2 victory against Rayo Vallecano, but fourth-place Real Betis can overtake the Bilbao side if they beat Girona on Sunday, while mercurial Valencia thrashed Celta 3-0 to move up to eighth in the table.
Whatever slim chance Elche had of coming away from Camp Nou with anything on Saturday all but evaporated in the 14th minute with the expulsion of Gonzalo Verdu, who was shown the red card for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity after he brought down Lewandowski.
The hosts would end the game with 78 percent possession, outshooting Elche 25-1, and the margin of defeat would have been bigger if not for some fine saves by visiting goalkeeper Edgar Badia.
Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 34th minute and Memphis Depay doubled Barcelona’s lead in the 41st. Pedri put the ball in the Elche net three minutes later to make it 3-0, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
The third goal came early in the second half from Lewandowski, his 11th in eight matches since joining the Blaugrana from Bayern Munich. And it took an outstanding effort by Badia to deny the Pole’s bid for a hat trick in the 62nd minute.
Valencia played well on Saturday, but two of their three goals came after Celta went down to 10 men with the expulsion of Franco Cervi in the 59th minute.
In Bilbao, Athletic conceded a goal in the 5th minute, but came roaring back with three goals in the space of 19 minutes to lead 3-1 at the break. Radamel Falcao scored for Rayo with 10 minutes left in regulation to make for an exciting finish. EFE rmm/dr