Lionel Messi became the Catalan derby’s all-time top goalscorer and Luis Suarez scored a brace as Barcelona demolished in-form Espanyol 4-1 on Sunday.
Denis Suarez was preferred to Ivan Rakitic in Barca’s midfield as Espanyol welcomed back talisman Pablo Piatti. The game was also overshadowed by the perceived bad blood between Coaches Luis Enrique and Quique Sanchez Flores, whom broke tradition by not having a photo taken together.
Nonetheless, MSN didn’t need long to click into gear. Suarez found Neymar to his left on the counterattack, the Brazilian then drilling a low cross for an unmarked Messi at the back post, but the Argentine couldn’t get his shot on target.
That was followed by Andres Iniesta’s superb, diagonal pass that found Suarez, who slotted the finish through the legs of Diego Lopez for the first goal Espanyol had conceded away from home in La Liga since mid-September.
It was out with the new and in with the old as far as Messi concerned, the No 10 having sported a new hairstyle with not a strand of blonde in sight. He was teed up by Neymar and shot inches wide of Diego Lopez’s far post.
Had Messi scored it would've been controversial, however, as David Lopez stayed down after he appeared to be struck in the face by Sergio Busquets.
Coming out for the second half, Messi dinked Suarez through on goal, but Lopez put off the No 9, whose close-range finish went wide, and injured himself in the process.
Sadly for his replacement Roberto Jimenez, Iniesta’s trickery allowed him to find Messi, who skipped past a succession of Espanyol shirts. The goalkeeper could only block the superstar’s shot in front of Suarez, who duly mopped up.
Messi was at his devastating best again just seconds later, taking on Neymar’s pass from the left and bamboozling two more Espanyol defenders, from which Jordi Alba fired home Barca’s third.
Still, Los Periquitos managed to pull one back via their first shot of their evening, 10 minutes before the final whistle. It was a superb finish from David Lopez, who rifled past Ter Stegen on the half-volley.
Yet Messi was to get the last laugh and his goal as he charged down right and played a one-two with Suarez, whose lobbed return was sent through Roberto’s legs by the No 10 for his 15th Derbi strike – a new record.
Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol
Suarez 18, 67, Alba, 68, Messi 90 (B) David Lopez 79 (E)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Denis (Rafinha 66), Busquets (Umtiti 74), Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Espanyol: Diego Lopez (Roberto 53); Javi Lopez, David Lopez, D Reyes, Aaron; Piatti, (J A Reyes 79) Fuego, Diop, Jurado; Caicedo (Melendo 71), Gerard
Referee: Mateu Lahoz