La Liga: Messi magical for Barca, Real win

Lionel Messi scored two superb individual goals as Barcelona produced an archetypal display to see off Celta Vigo and return to the top of La Liga.

Outbound coach Luis Enrique watched his Barca run Celta ragged with great interplay in attack and high pressing.

Messi made it 1-0 when he ran 45 yards and slotted in, before Neymar scored with a superb dinked finish.

Barca increased their lead with strikes from Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti before another solo effort from Messi.

It was a performance which Barca are renowned for but one that has been rarely seen this season. If they produce a similar display against Paris St-Germain on Wednesday then they have a great chance of overturning what seems an insurmountable 4-0 deficit.

Messi sent Barcelona on their way in the 24th minute.

The Argentine’s turn as he set off for goal was reminiscent of countryman Diego Maradona’s when he scored that dazzling solo goal against England at World Cup ’86. Messi had fewer defenders to navigate past, with Gustavo Cabral and Sergi Gomez failing to dislodge the ball from the diminutive forward before he fired past Sergio Alvarez.

Neymar then produced the best finish of the night when he converted Messi’s through-ball with the deftest of touches.

Rakitic slotted in the third in the 57th minute when Rafinha’s heavy touch in the area fell into his path before defender Umtiti grabbed his first in Barcelona colours with a poked finish from Messi’s square ball.

The Barcelona magician then capped of a great night for both himself and his team when he cut inside from the right and sold a dummy before firing in through the legs of Facundo Roncaglia.

Enrique’s side lead by a point from Real Madrid, who defeated Eibar 4-1 earlier on Saturday. Real also have a game in hand on their bitter rivals.

Karim Benzema earlier silenced his critics with a brace as a Real Madrid side lacking several of their leading stars cruised to a 4-1 victory over Eibar at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.

The visitors were without Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Marcelo in their starting XI, but still had way too much for Eibar.

France forward Benzema, who had scored only five goals in LaLiga this season coming into the game, played a part in all four goals, with James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio also on the scoresheet.

Benzema put the visitors ahead after 14 minutes before flicking home Rodriguez’s free kick moments later to make it 2-0. He then turned provider before the half-hour mark as he set up James to finish off a clinical counter-attack, and the Frenchman’s brilliant pass then also began the move which lead to Asensio’s second-half strike.

Ruben Pena grabbed a consolation for the hosts, but it was too little too late as Real returned to winning ways following their 3-3 midweek draw against Las Palmas.

Villarreal kept alive their top-four hopes with a 2-0 triumph over Espanyol at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

With fourth-placed Real Sociedad having beaten Real Betis on Friday, Fran Escriba knew that his side needed three points to keep pace with the Basque outfit.

Before the game, Espanyol’s starting XI donned T-shirts with “Animo Asenjo” (Cheer up Asenjo) as they paid tribute to recently injured Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, who ruptured his Achilles for the fourth time in his career last Sunday against Real Madrid.

Midfielder Roberto Soriano put the Yellow Submarine in front on the stroke of half-time before Cedric Bakambu’s effort ricocheted off Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez to put the game out of reach with 10 minutes left.

Elsewhere, on-loan Darwin Machis scored a late winning goal against parent club Granada as Leganes moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory.

Granada, without an away win this season, offered almost nothing in the way of threat and mustered only one shot on target in the entire match.

But they were within seven minutes of claiming a point before Machis finished off a quick counter-attack to wrap up the points as Granada lost away for the seventh game in a row.

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