Cornella de Llobregat (Spain), Dec 9 (IANS) FC Barcelona unleashed their array of offensive weapons in a 4-0 rout of host Espanyol in the Catalan derby here.
Although the Periquitos put up some resistance in the early going at RCDE Stadium on Saturday, Barça’s constant pressure paid off in the 17th minute when they earned a free kick from about five meters outside the area, reports Efe.
Argentine superstar Lionel Messi stepped up to the ball and fired a curving strike that snuck into the top left-hand corner of the goal despite Espanyol net minder Diego Lopez’s desperate dive to his left.
The second goal came nine minutes later when Messi somehow maintained possession amid a crowd of several Espanyol defenders before dropping a pass off to Ousmane Dembele, who maneuvered around a defender with a cutback and then scored on a right-footed blast from the left side of the area.
Luis Suarez had been left out of the party to that point but he made his contribution to the rout in the 45th minute when he beat a defender to a pass from Dembele, dribbled to the goal line and somehow found an angle for a shot that went past Lopez and entered the goal just inside the right upright.
Espanyol came out in the second half determined to put on a better show for their fans, but many of them headed for the exits after Messi scored once more on a free kick.
That final goal came in the 65th minute, with Lopez this time diving futilely to his right before the ball hit the back of the net.
The hosts tried to make the score more respectable, but an apparent goal by defender Oscar Duarte in the 73rd minute was waved off by the video assistant referee (VAR) system for offside.
With their win and Sevilla’s 1-1 draw in Matchday 15 action Saturday against Valencia, first-place Barça (31 points) now have a three-point lead over the Andalusian side and Atletico Madrid.
Espanyol are provisionally in ninth place in La Liga with 21 points.