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Thursday, June 21, 2018 10:03:20 PM
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Barcelona take the lead, Luis Enrique says he'll quit

photo by AP photo

FC Barcelona\'s Lionel Messi (right) duels for the ball against Sporting Gijon\'s Sergio Alvarez during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Sporting Gijon at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday.

By AP, Madrid
03rd-Mar-2017       
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On a night marked by the surprise announcement that coach Luis Enrique will leave Barcelona at the end of the season, his team routed relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon 6-1 to return to the top of the Spanish league on Wednesday.
Lionel Messi scored his league-leading 21st goal less than 10 minutes into the match at the Camp Nou to help Barcelona earn a comfortable victory.
Barcelona leads the standings for the first time since the opening round, one point ahead of Real Madrid, which was held by Las Palmas to a 3-3 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Madrid, which still has a game in hand, scored twice with Cristiano Ronaldo in the final minutes to erase a two-goal deficit and salvage a point despite playing most of the second half without 10 men after a red card for Gareth Bale.
Luis Enrique announced that he will not coach Barcelona next season in the post-match news conference, saying that he needed to rest.
"The reason clearly had to do with the way of life I need to have in this profession, constantly having to find solutions, constantly trying to improve my team," he said.
After scoring important late winners in the last two games, Messi put Barcelona on the board with a header off a long cross into the area in the ninth minute.
It was his 36th goal in 36 matches this season, and his 12th in the last 11 league games.
The Argentina playmaker also hit the crossbar with a free kick in the 59th minutes, a couple of minutes before being substituted.
Two minutes after Messi opened the scoring, Barcelona added to the lead with an own goal by Juan Rodriguez, who deflected a shot by Luis Suarez.
The Uruguay striker scored with a volley from inside the area in the 27th, and his second-half substitute, Paco Alcacer, added the fourth from close range after a pass by Messi. Neymar found the net with a well-placed free kick in the 65th, and Ivan Rakitic rounded off the scoring with an angled shot in the 87th as Barcelona made it five league wins in a row.
Sporting, which could have left the relegation zone with a victory, got its lone goal from Carlos Castro in the 21st.
Third-place Sevilla, five points off the lead, hosts Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. Fourth-place Atletico plays at struggling Deportivo La Coruna on the same day.

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