Espanyol 0 Barcelona 4: Magical Messi dazzles in derby demolition

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann

Following Sevilla's 1-1 draw at Valencia, where the hosts hit a dramatic equaliser in stoppage time, Barcelona made no mistake at the RCDE Stadium, racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time.

Dembele sent Luis Suarez clear for Barca's third before half-time with Messi adding his ninth free-kick goal in La Liga in 2018 after the break to wrap up a completely dominant derby victory.

The Barcelona captain, who finished only fifth in this year's Ballon d'Or vote, curled in another superb dead-ball strike on 65 minutes to cap a fine individual and team performance.

Espanyol defender Oscar Duarte fouled the Barcelona playmaker 25 yards out in a central position.

Just nine minutes after Messi's opener it was two, the Argentine again playing a vital role as he found Ousmane Dembele out on the left with a wonderful pass, the Frenchman cutting inside onto his right foot and lashing a fierce curling effort into the far corner.

Barcelona go into the game against Espanyol having beaten Cultural Leonesa 4-1 in the Copa del Rey, with some key players, including Suarez, having been rested for that fixture.

Leo Baptistao was introduced in the 60th minute as Espanyol looked for a route back into the match, but Barcelona continued to resist the pressure, with Ter Stegen not having too much to do.

Goals from Brais Menzez, Okay Vokusli and Maxi Gomez had put Celta 3-0 ahead, but goals from Carlos Bacca in the 83rd and 87th minutes for Villarreal left Celta clinging on for all three points.

The second came in the 65th, with the ball a bit further back and from a slightly different angle.

Understandably, Barca took their foot off the gas in the second half, though the feeling that they could re-find their intensity and cutting edge at a moment's notice remained.