Pedro Rodriguez filled in for Barcelona’s missing star forwards by netting a hat-trick in 10 minutes, before setting up Cesc Fabregas twice as the visitors erased a two-goal deficit to win 5-2 at Getafe on Sunday.
Barcelona’s entertaining victory ensured the defending champions retained their share of the league leadership with Atletico Madrid, two rounds ahead of their meeting in the Spanish capital.
Real Madrid needed a late goal by substitute Jese Rodriguez to win 3-2 at Valencia and stay in third, five points behind their title rivals.
At the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe surged forward from the start to take advantage of a Barca without Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Victor Valdes and Neymar, stunning the visitors’ shaky defense with two goals in 15 minutes.
However, Pedro led the comeback by scoring in the 34th, 41st and 43rd minutes to swing the match in Barcelona’s favor before halftime.
Pedro crossed for Fabregas to score his first goal in the 68th, before the former provoked a penalty in the 72nd that the latter converted to secure the result.
In his fifth season with Barcelona’s first team, the 26-year-old Pedro has settled for the role of reserve player with the occasional start. Despite his limited playing time, the forward’s second treble of the season made him Barca’s leading scorer in the league with 10 goals, tied for fourth-best overall.
“I’m happy, confident and taking advantage of the opportunities my coach gives me,” Pedro said.
“Pedro has a great eye for goal, everyone in Spain knows that,” Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino said.
“He has a great attitude, he never gives up and he understands that he is an important player, even if he does play in an area of the field where Barcelona have other great players,” Martino added.
At the Estadio Mestalla, Angel di Maria blasted los Blancos in front in the 28th when he controlled Marcelo’s pass, dribbled between two defenders and drilled in a strike.
Juan Bernat set up the equalizer for Valencia when he picked out Pablo Piatti with a cross in the 34th.
Cristiano Ronaldo put Real back in front with a header in the 40th for his 18th league goal of the season, but Valencia toughened their defense after halftime and Jeremy Mathieu fended off Sergio Ramos to make it 2-2 in the 62nd.
Jese went on in the 73rd and nine minutes later, capped Real’s buildup after Luka Modric spotted him on the right side by rifling a low shot between goalie Vicente Guaita and his near post.
It was a particularly good night for Di Maria as he made his claim for a regular starting spot in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale with the opening goal and an assist for Ronaldo’s second just before halftime.
“This result is important,” Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said. “We are excited for 2014, even though Barca and Atletico are leading and are favorites [to win La Liga].”
He said his side are still in the La Liga title race, adding: “Five points is not a small gap, but we had a lot of pressure before this game when we were eight points back so it is a very important win.”
Also on Sunday, Athletic Bilbao beat Rayo Vallecano de Madrid 2-1 at the Estadio San Mames to strengthen their hold on fourth place, RCD Espanyol routed Real Valladolid 4-2 for their first win at home in four rounds and Celta de Vigo salvaged a 1-1 draw at home with CA Osasuna after Manuel “Lolo” Ortiz scored an own-goal to cancel teammate Emiliano Armenteros’ opener.
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