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Suarez's goal completes Barcelona turnaround

23 March 2015, 14:00

Barcelona - Luis Suarez is scoring again, and Barcelona is getting back to its best.

The Uruguay striker, who sat out the start of the season while suspended for biting an opponent at the World Cup, has rediscovered his devastating touch in front of goal, and it's translating into wins.

On Sunday, Suarez scored a superb game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid. The win put Barcelona four points clear at the top of the Spanish league.

It also signaled a turnaround for both Suarez and his club.

Suarez ran onto a pass from Dani Alves and slotted a difficult-angled shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas. It was a goal that combined speed, power and a pure scorer's touch.

"I tried to take advantage of the space between the defenders and to be as fast as I could so their center backs didn't have time to react," Suarez said. "Fortunately, it worked."

It was Suarez's 14th goal for the club, and the one he called his "most important" so far. It also put Barcelona in position to win back the title it surrendered to Atletico Madrid last year.

Barcelona took a risk when it signed Suarez from Liverpool for 81 million euros (then $108 million), bringing him in to team up with Messi and Neymar in attack. The Uruguayan had to miss the beginning of the season after getting slapped with a four-month suspension for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

Although Suarez struggled to score in his first three months with Barcelona, he has found his form just as the season enters its critical phase.

"That's why we signed him," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "We are happy he can be a decisive player. Since his arrival he has brought positive things to the team. We are talking about a striker who is able to combine well with his teammates, a scorer with an imposing physique and an interesting character."

At the start of January, Luis Enrique's job security was being questioned after a 1-0 loss at Real Sociedad was followed by a chaotic week that included the firing of the team's sports director and the club calling for early elections after this season.

Barcelona has won 18 of 19 games since, and now has back-to-back wins over English champion Manchester City and European champion Madrid.

"There is a long way still to go, and we know the league title will be tough to win," said Suarez, who scored a Premier League-leading 31 goals for Liverpool last season. "We have to make good on this advantage. Like any league, you don't know what can happen if you relax even a little."

Barcelona has also reached the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao and will face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarterfinals.

One of the keys to Barcelona's success is Luis Enrique making the team more versatile in attack. Unable to generate goals through its trademark passing attack, Barcelona did its damage through a set piece and a long ball over the top for Suarez.

Suarez's goal on Sunday restored Barcelona's lead after Cristiano Ronaldo had equalized for Madrid. Jeremy Mathieu had scored a header from a free kick by Messi to put Barcelona ahead 1-0.

"We always have the goal of maintaining possession to create chances and to defend by keeping the ball away from our area," Luis Enrique said. "But this game was complicated, and you need to know how to adapt."

Getting the ball to Suarez is one way that sure seems to be working.

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- AP


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