IMAGES from La Liga matches played on Sunday
Lionel Messi became the first man to score 400 La Liga goals as Barcelona eased to a 3-0 win at home to Eibar on Sunday which kept the Catalans five points clear at the top of the standings at the halfway point of the season.
Luis Suarez, who scored twice, helped tee up Messi's landmark goal, which came in the 53rd minute of the Argentine's 435th league appearance for Barca and saw the league's top scorer increase his tally to 17 goals in 17 games this campaign.
"His numbers are stratospheric, they are incredible, but it's not just the goals, it's everything else he does too," said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde, in praise of his talismanic forward.
Suarez had given Barca the lead in the 19th minute by completing a superb team move involving Messi and his former Liverpool team mate Philippe Coutinho, who returned to the starting line up for the first time in four league games.
The Uruguayan again combined with Coutinho to set up the historic goal for Messi, who produced a typical low shot into bottom corner after the lay off from Suarez.
It was another remarkable milestone for Messi, who has been the league's leading scorer since 2014, with Cristiano Ronaldo next on the list with 311 goals.
Eibar had been stubborn opponents in the first half but began to cave in after the interval, with Suarez striking again six minutes later, converting from a tight angle with the aid of a deflection off a visiting defender.
Barca, under pressure to win after Atletico Madrid had briefly reduced the gap to two points by beating Levante 1-0 earlier on Sunday, moved on to 43 points after 19 games.
Atletico are second on 38, while Sevilla are third on 33 after losing 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao.
Suarez's goals took him on to 14 league strikes for the season and means he and close friend Messi have scored a remarkable 31 times between them this season -- more than the total goal tallies of 17 teams in the league.
"Eibar are a very competitive team, they made it hard for us to create chances but we also knew that we could overwhelm them in attack and that's what we did eventually. Once we scored, the game opened up for us" said Suarez.
The Uruguayan also heaped praise on Messi on yet another momentous night for the Argentine.
"Obviously, we have to be very proud of Messi because every week he demonstrates how good he is and continues to make history with the club," he said.
Late Ceballos winner provides relief for injury-hit Real
Injury-hit Real Madrid snatched a 2-1 victory at Real Betis on Sunday, earning their first La Liga win of the year thanks to a late free kick from substitute Dani Ceballos to return to the top four.
Luka Modric had given Real the lead in the 18th minute, lashing a loose ball home from the edge of the area after a failed clearance by Betis defender Marc Bartra.
Santiago Solari's side, who were missing seven first-team players and lost Karim Benzema to injury at the end of the first half, were pegged back by former forward Sergio Canales who levelled in the 67th minute with a scrappy finish through the legs of stand-in goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The goal, awarded after a video assistant referee (VAR) consultation, looked set to pour more misery on the misfiring European champions, who drew with Villarreal and lost to Real Sociedad in their first two games of 2019.
But Ceballos, a former Betis player, secured a vital win with two minutes remaining, sending his free kick outside the Betis wall and into the corner, prompting boos from his old club's supporters and relieved celebrations from his team mates.
"We really had to suffer for these three points, which feel like gold for us," said Ceballos, who took the ball off usual free kick taker Sergio Ramos to strike the decisive goal.
"I wanted to take it and I was feeling confident, Sergio knew that and I found the hole in the wall and scored."
The victory took Real Madrid above Alaves into fourth place on 33 points, although they are still 10 points behind leaders Barcelona who beat Eibar 3-0.
Madrid's long absentee list, which included Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Thibaut Courtois and Toni Kroos, prompted Solari to field an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation but the Argentine again opted to leave out fan favourite Isco and also dropped the experienced Marcelo.
Madrid lost Benzema, their one fit forward, to a fractured finger and were forced to turn to 21-year-old Cristo Gonzalez, who came off the bench for his La Liga debut.
Betis, who outplayed champions Barcelona and won 3-2 at the Nou Camp this season, monopolised possession after the interval and pinned Madrid back around their area.
There was an air of inevitability about Canales' equaliser and Betis hunted a winner, but Real showed grit to withstand the pressure before Ceballos struck.
"We're very sad to not even have got a draw, we deserved to get a better result," said Betis coach Quique Setien.
"In the first half we made some mistakes but we were much better in the second and created a lot more danger. But you can never write off Real Madrid."
Benzema and Vallejo add to Real Madrid injury problems
Real Madrid were dealt a double injury blow after scans revealed striker Karim Benzema has fractured a finger, while defender Jesus Vallejo suffered a hamstring injury in training on Monday.
Striker Benzema sustained the problem in Sunday's 2-1 La Liga win at Real Betis and was taken off at halftime, with Spanish media reports suggesting he could miss up to three weeks.
"He has been diagnosed with a fracture in the phalanx of the fifth finger in the right hand," said Madrid in a statement. "The player's situation will continue to be monitored."
Vallejo left the club's training session on Monday in tears, said Madrid newspaper AS.
The 22-year-old centre back has only been able to feature in two matches this season because of a series of physical problems, with this his fourth injury.
Benzema and Vallejo join Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Thibaut Courtois, Marcos Llorente, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz on the sidelines.
Madrid, fourth in the league, face Leganes on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey last 16 second leg before hosting Sevilla, third, on Saturday.
Bilbao's Williams strikes twice as Sevilla's hopes fade
Sevilla's hopes of staying in the La Liga title race faded further with a 2-0 defeat on Sunday at struggling Athletic Bilbao, who boosted their chances of survival with two wonderful goals from Inaki Williams.
The striker, making his 100th consecutive appearance in La Liga, ended a goal drought of more than two years at his club's San Mames stadium in spectacular style with brilliant goals in each half.
The defeat left Sevilla third in the standings on 33 points, seven behind leaders Barcelona who could stretch their advantage over the Andalusians to 10 if they beat Eibar later on Sunday.
Athletic meanwhile climbed up to 16th on 22 points, moving three away from the relegation zone.
Williams gave them the lead midway through the first half, cutting in from the left wing to find the far top corner with a scorching strike -- his first goal at home since netting against Eibar in December 2016.
Sevilla had beaten Athletic 3-1 at San Mames three days previously in a Copa del Rey last-16 game but for most of the game were outmuscled by Gaizka Garitano's side, who are fighting against a potential first-ever relegation from the top flight.
Dutch midfielder Quincy Promes came closest to scoring for the visitors with a long strange strike which brushed past the far post, while Argentine playmaker Ever Banega saw a shot squirm just wide from the edge of the area.
But Williams, who also scored the winner at Celta Vigo last week, sealed the victory with another impressive effort in the 82nd minute, knocking the ball beyond a defender and then dribbling around the goalkeeper before tapping in.