Messi double leads five-star Barca past Leganes

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Lionel Messi AFP PHOTO

Lionel Messi
AFP PHOTO

MADRID: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on target as Barcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga with a 5-1 thrashing at newly promoted Leganes on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres struck twice as Atletico Madrid moved into third with their third win of the week in a 5-0 rout of Sporting Gijon.

Barca move level with Real Madrid at the top of the table, but Madrid play their game in hand away to Espanyol without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on Sunday.

Atletico travel to face Barcelona next on Wednesday.

“We started very well. If we had started sluggishly, thinking we just needed to turn up to win, then we would have struggled a lot more,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar started together for only the second time this season and, just as in a 7-0 thrashing of Celtic on Tuesday, showed no mercy as Leganes’s high defensive line was torn apart in the first-half.

“On one hand their high pressing made things uncomfortable, but on the other hand it meant we could take advantage of the space,” added Enrique.

After a bright start from Leganes, Suarez showed great strength to burst down the right and his low cross was easily turned home by Messi for the opener.

The roles were reversed for Barca’s second when Messi was gifted possession inside the Leganes half and waltzed past two defenders before teeing up Suarez for a tap-in.

Suarez bagged his second assist of the half just before the break when he was released clear on goal and selflessly squared for Neymar this time to roll into an empty net.

Messi spot-on
All of Barca’s front three were involved for the fourth 10 minutes after the break as Neymar latched onto Suarez’s ball over the top and was dragged down by Unai Bustinza.

Messi showed no signs of the penalty yips he suffered last season and at the Copa America in June as he fired into the top corner for his eighth goal in as many games this season.

However, the two best goals of the afternoon were still to come as Rafinha cut inside onto his weaker left foot to unleash a rocket into the top corner for Barca’s fifth.

And Leganes got the reward their display merited 10 minutes from time when Gabriel Appelt Pires curled a sensational free-kick past the helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Atletico will travel to the Catalan capital in midweek full of confidence after a mauling of Sporting registered their first home win of the season.

Griezmann took just two minutes to open the scoring when he raced onto Kevin Gameiro’s through ball before composing himself to slot past Ivan Cuellar.

Gameiro lashed home his first Atletico goal from open play following a 30 million euro ($33.6 million) move from Sevilla just three minutes later.

Not to be outdone by his French international teammate, Griezmann then unleashed a stunning effort of his own from outside the box to make it 3-0 after just half an hour.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone, who shortened his contract from 2020 to 2018 in midweek, replaced Griezmann with Torres early in the second-half with one eye on his side’s upcoming trip the Camp Nou.

AFP

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