Lionel Messi stellar in Barcelona win as Luis Suarez nets hat trick
Barcelona 6 - 1 Girona

Lionel Messi stellar in Barcelona win as Luis Suarez nets hat trick

24/02/2018

Luis Suarez fired a hat-trick and Lionel Messi a brace as Barcelona ran riot in a 6-1 win against Girona to stay on course for their 25th La Liga title.

Suarez and Messi both struck first-half doubles to take the game away from Girona, who paid for the impudence of taking a third-minute lead through Portu in their first visit to the Nou Camp.

Philippe Coutinho got in on the act in the second period with a brilliant fifth from 25 yards -- his first La Liga goal -- before Suarez, who also hit a post, completed his hat trick.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde had hinted at changes, but Messi and Suarez both started, while Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele replaced Paulinho and Andres Iniesta.

Pere Pons, Pablo Maffeo and Anthony Lozano all returned to Girona's starting line-up, and Portu gave the visitors a dream start, robbing Samuel Umtiti on the edge of the penalty area and scoring from a tight angle after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had raced off his line.

Messi's slide-rule pass set up Suarez to rifle home an angled equaliser two minutes later and the Argentinian's free kick was brilliantly saved by Bono shortly afterwards.

Girona defender Bernardo's brilliant headed clearance denied Messi and Bono then did well to keep out Suarez's shot as Barca hit the groove.

Messi fired home his first after taking Suarez's pass and cutting inside when it seemed the chance had been lost and seven minutes later he drilled a low free kick beneath the wall to leave Bono stranded.

It was Messi's 371st league goal in just 407 appearances for the club.

Suarez then finished off a sweeping counter-attack involving Messi and Coutinho from five yards to make it 4-1 just before the interval.

Girona won automatic promotion last May and nine La Liga wins this season had lifted them up to ninth in the table heading into the match, but the gulf in class between them and their hosts was marked.

Suarez crashed a shot against a post early in the second half and Bono's save denied Messi his hat trick before Coutinho showcased his talents with a superb curling effort to put Barcelona 5-1 ahead in the 66th minute.

Bono denied Messi again with a flying save to turn away the Argentinian's free-kick, but an inevitable sixth goal duly arrived in the 76th minute.

Ivan Rakitic set Dembele away down the right and his sweeping cross was turned home by Suarez for his 20th goal in 22 league outings this season.

Substitute Thomas Vermaelen's header was pushed onto the crossbar by Bono and in a rare foray forward for Girona, Ter Stegen showed excellent concentration to keep out a late shot from Aleix Garcia.

Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo appeared to injury his left leg late in the match when he needed to be attended by team doctors.

Barca have opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the table, with second-placed Atletico Madrid playing at Sevilla on Sunday.

Girona fell into ninth place. The Catalan club has impressed in their debut season in the first division, and lost only once in the six games prior to Saturday.

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