Magical Messi shows off his dead-ball brilliance for Barca
Sergio Busquets hailed teammate Lionel Messi as the best free-kick taker in the world after the Barcelona forward conjured up another example of his dead-ball brilliance in the 4-1 win over Celta Vigo.
Barca captain Messi netted his first hat-trick of the season to send the Spanish champions top of La Liga after a difficult week.
The Argentine scored a penalty on 23 minutes before Lucas Olaza scored a peach of a a free kick to draw Celta level.
Messi then scored identical free kicks either side of half time to complete his treble and match Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 34 hat-tricks in Spain’s top flight.
Sergio Busquets struck a fourth goal in the 85th minute to round off a first win for Barca in three games, after falling to a shock 3-1 defeat at Levante last week in La Liga and drawing 0-0 at home to Slavia Prague in the Champions League.
“We have a very big advantage, we have the best player in the world on our side who is also the best at taking free kicks,” Busquets said of Messi, who took his tally to eight goals in seven league games after missing the first month of the season through injury.
“Little by little he has been improving at free kicks, he used to find them hard. Having him around gives us a real boost.”
Despite going into the weekend within striking distance of top spot, the Catalans have had an uneasy campaign which hit a new low this week as players were booed off the pitch following the goalless draw against Slavia.
There was a subdued atmosphere at the Camp Nou and close to 30,000 seats were left empty.
As has so often been the case, it was up to Messi to lift the mood again. “With Messi anything is possible,” said Barca manager Ernesto Valverde.
“He dominates the art of free kick taking, and opponents know they cannot afford to give away fouls near our area. When they do, we try to take advantage.”
Barca lead the standings on 25 points after 12 games, level with second-placed Real Madrid who eased to a 4-0 win at Eibar.
Dani Carvajal hailed the “complete performance” of Real Madrid after their victory at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium. Three goals in the opening half-hour set the tone for the visitors, with Karim Benzema scoring twice – his second from the penalty spot – before captain Sergio Ramos added another penalty. Federico Valverde completed the rout just after the hour mark as Madrid returned to the capital with all three points.
“We have been producing very complete performances recently and today was another one,” said Real defender Carvajal. “Our start set the tone for the game and we have to keep that up, unfortunately the international break comes at a time when we are doing very well.
“We are being more ruthless in both areas and that is making a big difference.”
Atletico Madrid secured a much-needed 3-1 win over Espanyol yesterday thanks to goals from Angel Correa, Alvaro Morata – for the sixth game in a row – and Koke. Sergi Darder had given Espanyol a 38th-minute lead at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Ander Capa scored a spectacular late volley to earn Athletic Bilbao a win at home to Levante. Sergio Postigo had given the visitors a lead just before half-time only for Iker Muniain to level after 57 minutes.
Spanish full-back Capa sealed the points for Bilbao with two minutes remaining.
Lionel Messi scores his opening free-kick for Barcelona against Celta Vigo on Saturday