Lionel Messi put on another show at the Camp Nou on Sunday, scoring a remarkable goal from a free kick and then helping to set up a hat trick for Luis Suarez – including a daring assist from a penalty kick – as Barcelona thrashed Celta Vigo 6-1.
Ivan Rakitic and Neymar also scored as Barcelona opened up a three-point lead in the Spanish league over Atletico Madrid, which edged Getafe 1-0. Real Madrid, which beat Athletic Bilbao 4-2 on Saturday with two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, is four points behind Barcelona in third place. Barcelona has a game in hand.
It was an impressive victory by the Catalan club, and the performances by Messi, Suarez and Neymar in the second half neared perfection.
“We were spectacular and effective,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “I’m used to seeing these players, when they train, they are even better.”
Messi started the show by curling a left-foot shot over the wall in the 28th minute, and then mesmerized the Camp Nou crowd as he helped Suarez to score in the 59th, 75th and 81st minutes.
Suarez’s third goal was extra special, with the Uruguay striker and Messi fooling everybody, after Messi was tripped in the area following a nifty dribble past a defender. Messi was set to take the spot-kick himself, but he just rolled the ball to the side for the inrushing Suarez to drive it home.
While Celta players looked in awe, Suarez and Messi glimpsed at each other and smiled broadly before embracing to celebrate. Luis Enrique tried to cover his mouth while smiling himself at the bench.
“Barcelona players, in addition to winning titles, also want to have fun and entertain the members in a fair and spectacular way,” the coach said. “It didn’t surprise me.”
The play became famous after Johan Cruyff – a Barcelona idol – executed it while playing for Ajax in 1982.
“It’s a legal play, some will like it, some won’t,” Luis Enrique said. “It will generate a lot of debate.”
Celta players and coach Eduardo Berizzo downplayed the incident.
“The penalty was taken in a different way, there’s nothing more to it,” Berizzo said. “Barcelona has some voracious attackers who will score goals anyway you let them score.”
Messi had already impressed with a superb flick of the ball over Celta defenders to set up Suarez’s first goal, and then by sending a perfect through ball for Neymar inside the area for the team’s third goal, finished by Suarez.
Suarez, the league’s leading scorer with 22 goals, then set up Rakitic’s goal in the 84th and Neymar’s goal in second-half injury time. Suarez also hit the post in the first half.
Celta’s goal was a penalty kick converted by John Guidetti in the 39th. The Swedish striker had missed a penalty against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Thursday.
Barcelona hasn’t lost in 30 consecutive games in all competitions. It had set the club record for most matches without a loss last weekend.
The Catalan club plays at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday in a match postponed from December because of the Club World Cup.
Earlier Sunday, striker Fernando Torres scored with a shot into the roof of the net after a low cross by Yannick Carrasco just two minutes into the match to give Atletico the 1-0 win over Getafe.
Good defense was key again for Diego Simeone’s team, which had been struggling in recent matches. Atletico recorded a clean sheet again after conceding six goals in its last three games. It was bolstered on Sunday by the return of Filipe Luis, Diego Godin and Juanfran, who missed the 3-1 win over Eibar last weekend because of suspensions.
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy playing at Getafe and it showed,” Juanfran said. “But we were efficient once again, just like it was happening a few rounds ago, and we didn’t concede any goals, like it was happening a few rounds ago.”
It was the second game in a row in which Torres scored. He had netted his 100th goal with Atletico in second-half injury time last weekend, ending a scoring drought that started in the league’s fourth round last year.
Carrasco had to be substituted in the 54th because an apparent knee injury.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for Getafe, which dropped to 13th in the 20-team standings.
Also Sunday, fifth-place Sevilla defeated Las Palmas 2-0 with second-half goals by Argentina midfielder Ever Banega and French striker Kevin Gameiro. Sixth-place Eibar beat last-place Levante 2-0.