La Liga: Lionel Messi scores two stunners as Barcelona thrash Espanyol 4-0 in Catalan derby
Lionel Messi scored two perfect free-kicks and assisted another as Barcelona extended their lead at the top to three points with a 4-0 thumping win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday.
The defending champions, who started the game level on points with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, proved too hot for their Catalan rivals as Messi ran the show with another spectacular performance in a week he was ranked fifth at the Ballon d’Or awards and was subject to heavy criticism by the legendary Pele.
The Argentine magician curled home two sensational free-kicks while also setting up Ousmane Dembele to double the lead just 25 minutes into the encounter.
Messi opened the scoring in the 17th minute with a lovely free-kick into the top right corner before his extraordinary quality to keep the ball despite being under tremendous pressure from Espanyol defenders resulted in Dembele scoring the second.
The Frenchmen then turned provider for Luis Suarez just one minute before half-time with a superb through ball that the Uruguayan somehow deflected into the net off goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Messi then completed the rout with a second free-kick in the 65th minute that curled so deep and so far that Lopez hardly found any time to move towards the ball. A minute later Oscar Duarte had a consolation goal ruled out by VAR for offside.
The defeat was Espanyol’s fourth straight league defeat keeping them ninth in the points table with 21 points after 15 games.
Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid kept themselves on Barca’s heels with a 3-0 victory over the fourth-placed Alaves.
Niko Kalinic, Antoine Griezmann and Rodri were on target as Atleti made most of the top-team battle.
Kalinic opened the scoring in the 24th minute slotting home a Santiago Arias cross for his maiden league goal before Griezmann and Rodri wrapped the victory within five minutes of each other late into the match.
Sevilla, however, failed to take their opportunity against a struggling Valencia side to remain three points behind leaders Barcelona.