By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 18/12/16 10:05pm
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the stars of the show as Barcelona beat Espanyol 4-1 in the Catalan derby on Sunday evening.
Uruguayan forward Suarez netted twice, getting his first in the 18th minute before firing home a rebounded effort from Messi after some sublime skill.
Messi cut through the visiting defence once again just a minute later to set up Jordi Alba for Barcelona’s third, with David Lopez hitting a fine effort in reply for Espanyol.
But Messi sealed the victory on the stroke of the 90th minute as he linked up with Suarez to score the fourth, which now sees Barcelona move up to second in the table – three points behind rivals and leaders Real Madrid.
The hosts went close to scoring inside ten minutes, with a fantastic break from Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar after a sublime ball forward from Andreas Iniesta sent the Uruguayan on the break. He passed to his Brazilian team-mate who in turn crossed for Messi at the far post but he could only rifle is effort into the side of the net.
Espanyol did not offer too much in terms of chances in the first-half, but had a decent effort in the 17th minute as Felipe Caciedo picked out the head of Gerard but he could only flash an effort wide of the post.
Just a minute later, Barcelona broke the deadlock. Iniesta was at it again as he spied the run of Suarez on the right-hand side, picking him out and despite the efforts of Diego Reyes to stop him, the forward slotted home under the legs of the oncoming Diego Lopez.
There was Catalan derby controversy just after the half an hour mark as Sergio Busquets appeared to push David Lopez in the face during an Espanyol free kick, sending him tumbling. With Barcelona on the break, Messi fired agonisingly wide at the other end with the midfielder still down which provoked a noisy response from the visiting fans.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ side could have equalised with seven minutes of normal time to play as Caicedo fired a ball to the right-hand side of the box, but David Lopez could only fire over the bar from a tight angle to see the hosts lead at the break.
Barcelona’s potent attacking trio linked up again six minutes after the restart and nearly added a second. Neymar raced through the middle of the park, finding Messi at the top of the box who in turn slid the ball through to Suarez – taking out three defenders in the process – but as the forward went to shoot, Diego Lopez was down low to save, causing an injury to his knee that saw him replaced by Roberto.
The substitute goalkeeper had a tough evening though as Barcelona kicked into high gear, and scored a sublime second goal in the 67th minute.
Messi picked up a cleared ball as Espanyol tried to stopped Iniesta, slicing through the defence who just could not stop him before shooting. Roberto spilled the save into the path of Suarez, who made no mistake in firing home from close range.
He did the same less than a minute late, dancing through the visiting defence before tapping the ball into the path of Alba who slotted home past the Espanyol stopper.
But the visitors did have a reply in them, and it was a thunderous effort from David Lopez as Gerard found him with a sublime cross to the other side of the box, with the defender slamming home to cut the deficit.
Barcelona restored their three goal lead on the stroke of 90 minutes and it was another superb goal from the current La Liga champions. Messi and Suarez linked up once again, with the former set away down the right flank before finding his team-mate at the top of the box.
Suarez took one touch to chip the ball over the top of the Espanyol defence, and allowing the Argentine to fire home through the legs of Roberto to round off a brilliant evening for the hosts.