Lionel Messi ended his longest goal drought in six years last night as he netted four times in Barcelona’s 5-0 thrashing of Eibar at the Camp Nou.
Barca endured a nervous start, and found themselves, rather uncharacteristically, on the back foot. Fortunately for the home side, Eibar’s weak attack was no match for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The visitors’ best chance was finished in style by Sergi Enrich, but the linesman’s flag was up and the goal was ruled out.
Messi, as sprightly as ever, broke the stalemate soon after with a brilliant solo effort. The indefatigable Argentine received a pass from Ivan Rakitic, 30 yards from goal. He executed a slick turn before nutmegging one defender, taking it round a second and finishing the move with a delightful chip over the onrushing Marko Dmitrovic.
It was one-way traffic from here on, as the hosts clicked into their iconic prowess. Messi doubled their tally 15 minutes from the break with yet another world-class goal, this time a worm-burning strike across the face of goal that nestled in the side netting at the far post.
Then, just before halftime, the six-time Ballon D’Or winner completed his hat-trick when he capitalised on some disorganised defending.
Eibar started the second half better than they had ended the first, and they had the ball in the net once more, but again the linesman’s flag halted any celebrations; this time for a high-boot foul on Barca defender Gerard Pique.
Martin Braithwaite was introduced to the 66,000-strong Catalan crowd in place of Antoine Griezmann, and the controversial emergency signing won their hearts very quickly as he relentlessly chased the ball and sparked the Blaugrana’s lacklustre second-half performance into life.
The Dane’s hard yards came into fruition five minutes from time when he evaded Eibar’s defence and fired a cross in to Messi, who turned it in for his and Barcelona’s fourth goal of the evening.
Braithwaite assisted again in similar fashion for Barcelona’s fifth, but it was midfielder Arthur Melo who rounded off the scoring with an easy, sliding tap-in.
Barcelona boss Quique Setien said: “We were waiting for a match like this, in which things went well for us and we were doing things right.
“In other games we couldn’t finish.”
The win saw Barca move to the top spot in LaLiga, as title-rivals Real Madrid suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Levante. The two sides will meet next week at the Santiago Bernabeu for an El Classico which could prove to be the title-decider.