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Lionel Messi was in sparkling form as Barcelona crushed rivals Espanyol in a comprehensive 4-0 La Liga victory. The Argentine superstar scored two free-kicks and provided an assist of the highest calibre for Ousmane Dembele as Ernesto Valverde’s men opened up a three-point advantage over Sevilla in second.
Luis Suarez was also on the scoresheet on his much-awaited return from injury, slotting home on the cusp of half-time to give Barca a three-goal lead at the interval after the earlier strikes from Messi and Dembele.
Messi added another after 65 minutes, a second imperious free-kick, with Espanyol unable to lay a glove on their city rivals. Oscar Duarte thought he had grabbed a consolation but his 74th-minute effort was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
Photo: eurosport/Lionel Messi
TALKING POINT – Did the Ballon d’Or or Pele’s comments fire up Lionel Messi?
From the very first whistle Messi had the look of a man on a mission this evening. Much was made of the way he was overlooked for the 2018 Ballon d’Or, finishing fifth in the rankings earlier this week. On top of that, Pele made some disparaging comments about the Argentine, calling him one-footed. So was Messi fired up by these two things? If he was, it was Espanyol who paid the price. A sensational performance from the best player of all-time. One-footed or not.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
The great man made a mockery of the Ballon d’Or voting with this performance. Ranked the fifth best player in the world earlier in the week, this was Messi at his best. The best in the world. His stunning, free-kick opener broke the deadlock, providing the highlight of the game along with his carbon copy second in the second half, but Messi was irrepressible throughout. Espanyol stood no chance of stopping the Barca number 10 in this mood. A quite astonishing performance.
Espanyol – Lopez 6, J.Lopez 5, D.Lopez 6, Duarte 6, Vila 5, Sanchez 5, Roca 5, Darder 5, Perez 6, Iglesias 6, Melando 5. Subs – Granero 5, Garcia 7, Baptistao 6.
Barcelona – Ter Stegen 5, Semedo 7, Pique 7, Lenglet 6, Alba 5, Rakitic 6, Busquets 6, Vidal 5, Messi 9, Suarez 7, Dembele 7. Subs – Coutinho 6, Denis 5, Munir 5.