Friday, 14 December, 2018

Lionel Messi stars as Barcelona down Espanyol

Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their fourth goal. Albert Gea Reuters Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores their fourth goal. Albert Gea Reuters
Cary Erickson | 09 December, 2018, 01:47

The visitors were in complete control and could have been out of sight shortly afterwards as both Luis Suarez and Messi rattled the woodwork, but the Uruguayan did eventually add his name to the scoresheet on the stroke of the break to all but put the game to bed.

Barca led in the 17th minute thanks to the first moment of Messi magic in an astounding display.

Sergio Garcia was next off the Espanyol bench in the 63rd minute, but Barcelona made it 4-0 in the 65th minute when Messi sent yet another stunning free kick into the top corner of the net.

It was 2-0 on 26 minutes when Messi picked out Dembele in the Espanyol penalty area and the France worldwide cut back inside to curl the ball past Lopez.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates. Albert Gea Reuters
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates. Albert Gea Reuters

Dembele was again involved for the Spanish champions, with the Frenchman's through pass releasing Luis Suarez, who squeezed a low attempt through the legs of Diego Lopez.

Atletico Madrid produced a typically effective display to beat Alaves 3-0 in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday lunchtime. Yet Barca's efforts to defend the title will take some stopping if they maintain this level of performance, having moved three points clear of the chasing pack.

Messi was in fine form against derby rivals Espanyol. Coach Ernesto Valverde said it was "absurd" Messi finished fifth in the Ballon d'Or voting - he has a point. They have not beaten Barcelona in 19 attempts in La Liga now, while a fourth straight league loss means their strong start has faded badly of late.

Messi has mastered the art of the free-kick in recent years but this is up there with his best as he gave Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez no chance from 30 yards to open the scoring in the derbi barceloní on Saturday night.

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