Mag­i­cal Messi shows off his dead-ball bril­liance for Barca

The National - News - - FOOTBALL SPORT -

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

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