Lionel Messi scored on a trademark free kick before setting up Luis Suarez for a hat trick as Barcelona remained unbeaten in a team record 30 games as the Blaugrana climbed back on top of La Liga Sunday afternoon by routing Celta Vigo 6-1 in the Camp Nou.
Suarez’ third goal was a piece of sheer arrogance from Messi and his mates. Messi tapped his penalty kick sideways and slightly forward to allow Suarez to come in from the 18-yard line and smack the ball into the net on an afternoon when he was involved all six of his team’s goals.
John Guidetti’s penalty kick had the visitors level at the break and they did their part to make the game attractive and tense before finally yielding to the inevitable as the Barcelona attack tore them apart in the second half.
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Now 13-3-0 in their last 16 league matches, Barcelona stayed three points ahead of Atletico Madrid and four clear of Real Madrid after the weekend. They can create more space between themselves and their nearest rivals Wednesday when they go to Sporting Gijon to play their match-in-hand, a game postponed last December while Barcelona was on FIFA World Club Cup duty in Japan.
Celta, with just one win in their last eight games in all competitions, came to town without Fabian Orellana and Iago Aspas, two of their top performers, but didn’t take the part of mere opposition. Having beaten Barcelona 4-1 back in September, they attacked with confidence in the opening half, but eventually were buried under the creativity and invention of the Barcelona attacks.
Messi’s 13th league goal in the first half came courtesy of Suarez’ constant threat. The Uruguayan had already been fouled once at the top of the box when Carles Planes saw yellow in the 26th minute for once more derailing the Barcelona striker in a dangerous spot.
The world has gotten so used to Messi’s magic with the dead ball that it was no surprise when he curled the ball over the wall and into the top right corner from about 26 meters. It was a typical precision strike that left Sergio Alvarez grasping air.
Celta was giving every bit as good as it received and got its deserved equalizer from the penalty spot six minutes before the break. Guidetti won the award when he chased down a neat Daniel Wass pass and had his legs taken from behind by Jordi Alba. It was a foul that didn’t have to happen as the Swedish international had turned away from goal when he was upended.
Guidetti beat Claudio Bravo with power on his spot kick, the Barcelona keeper diving correctly to his right but unable to reach the hard drive.
It took 14 minutes — and a couple of near things — early in the second for the Catalans to regain the advantage and once ahead they didn’t take their foot off the gas.
Right after the restart Neymar magically got past defenders to the left byeline before setting up Suarez only for the resulting shot to clip the right post. Then it was Alvarez’ turn to produce the magic, his dive low to his left making a one-hand save possible that denied Andres Iniesta what looked a certain goal.
There was nothing the Celta keeper could do when Messi turned provider for Suarez. The Uruguayan began pass-and-run move with Messi that started outside the box on the top right. Messi delivered a delightful floated pass over the backline, Suarez ran through and met it first time on his right foot, beating Alvarez to the far top left corner.
The third goal came with 15 minutes left after Messi held off defenders, slid the ball into space on the left. Neymar accelerated, then managed to clip the ball away from a sliding defender and with the tightest of angles chipped it to the far post. Suarez was there to get the final touch into an open net.
Messi won his 81st minute penalty with tight control on the right byeline and step inside Jonny before the defender pushed him over to concede the penalty.
The award then produced the piece of amazing magic, Messi simply tapping the ball sideways from the spot for Suarez to arrive on his right for his hat trick finish. It was an act of supreme confidence from both the Argentine and his compatriot that left the crowd gasping, then roaring.
Rakitic scored three minutes later, with a first-time chip on the full run that stranded Alvarez. Suarez was the distributor that time and again when Neymar scored in the last minute.