Messi masterclass sees Barca crush Espanyol

Barca's Dembele celebrates scoring their second goal with Messi

Barca’s Dembele celebrates scoring their second goal with Messi

NOT bad for the fifth-best player in the world. Lionel Messi made a mockery of being left off of the Balon d’Or podium last week with one of his best performances of the season as Barcelona destroyed Espanyol 4-0 in the Catalan derby.

Even those who applauded the recognition for Luka Modric believed it strange that Messi was down in fifth place in last week’s big Paris award ceremony.

Does Messi get upset by such thing? He did timing the posting of an Instagram picture right at the time of the presentation of him at home with two of his sons Mateo and Thiago. If he was angry then it was Espanyol who suffered.

He scored two direct free-kicks in the same league game for the first time in his career. There are still new records to be broken aged 31.

In a recent interview in Folha de Sao Paulo, Pele had claimed Messi: ‘Only kicks with one foot, can’t head the ball and only has one dribbling trick.’ That raised as many laughs as the fifth-placed finish in Paris last week.

His recital here began with an unstoppable first half free-kick. Espanyol felt hard done by when referee Oscar del Cerro Grande waved away appeals after Oscar Melendo felt he had been fouled by Clement Lenglet.

Barcelona broke away and Messi was fouled by Marc Roca on the edge of the area. He lined up the kick and Gerard Pique took his place in the wall. The plan looked almost too obvious: Pique would duck and Messi would fire the free-kick over his head. But Messi doesn’t need anyone to duck in the wall. His shot was wide of Pique but it still whipped up and then dipped enough before it nestled in the top corner of Espanyol keeper Diego Lopez’s net.

For Messi’s next trick, he set up Ousmane Dembele for 2-0. He was bumped and battered as he dribbled around the edge of the penalty area.

He was knocked down and came straight back up, still with the ball at his feet and despite his head being down he had still spotted Dembele and when he rolled a clever diagonal pass to him the French winger cut inside and curled a right-footed shot past Lopez to double the lead.

Messi continued to run the game, the ball an extension of his left foot, even chasing back to make a defensive challenge.

He did his best to tee-up Luis Suarez for the third, in the end the Uruguayan conjured up one for himself from Dembele’s pass scoring from the tightest of angles right on half time through the leg of Lopez. Espanyol had not played badly but they were out of the match with half of it still to play.

In the second period, Messi picked up where he had left off in the first half sending Dembele sprinting clear. He couldn’t finish but recovered to find Messi who had continued his run into the area. Messi tried to finish through Lopez’ legs but his shot was blocked.

Barcelona kept winning free-kicks in Messi territory – the first he left Suarez fire into the wall. The second he clipped over the wall and past Lopez for 3-0.

Lopez looked poorly positioned this time. The free-kick was not Messi’s best it didn’t need to be and he moved to 11 goals for the season so far – no one in La Liga has scored more.

Oscar Duarte thought he had scored a consolation goal for Espanyol but after VAR intervened – leaving the stadium waiting an age for its decision – the goal was ruled out for offside.

So 4-0 it stayed. This had been billed as the closest derby in years with Espanyol flying high in the table. But all the time Barcelona have Messi the gap between the two sides will be unbridgeable. – MailOnline

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